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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

Here's something to chew on, Major-League Baseball fans:

As we head into the final week in June, there are nine teams in the American League with winning records ... and five of 'em reside in the AL East.

Gotta say that we can't quite remember the last time we've been this deep into a baseball season (most teams have played approximately 45 percent of their season already) and we have a five-team division where everyone's got a winning mark.

The irony is this:

When the 2013 MLB season swung into action, there were all kinds of folks falling over themselves to pick the Toronto Blue Jays as the "favorite" to win the AL East and very few folks with faith in either the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees and yet we sit some 10 days before the Fourth of July and everyone's been shooting off winning fireworks with the red-hot Blue Jays (38-36) now just five games back of the division-leading Red Sox following Toronto's three-game weekend sweep over the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

Who's gonna come out as playoff teams from this division when all the dust finally settles in late September?

Let us take out our crystal ball and examine each team with their record thru Sunday, June 23rd listed below:

BOSTON RED SOX (45-33, .577) - There's plenty of reason to worry about the front end of the Bosox's starting rotation with LHP Jon Lester slumping and RHP Clay Buchholz hurting but there's plenty of pop on board and lots of quality depth in the everyday player positions. Still, not quite sure the Red Sox have enough innings-eaters to get 'em through a long, hot New England summer:

Jim Sez Forecast: The Sox will finish right around the 83-win mark (that was their preseason "over/under" number) and thus fall short of getting a post-season berth.

BALTIMORE (42-34, .553) - No doubt the past weekend's results were disheartening (especially while yielding a total of 24 runs to the home-run-happy Blue Jays) but the O's have been solid overachievers this season as keep in mind the know-it-all Las Vegas guys had 'em down to win 78 or 79 games this year and Buck Showalter's crew is well ahead of that forecast. Still, with a plethora of dynamic everyday players including home run monster Chris Davis (27 dingers and 69 RBI) there remains the question of the pitching staff that's ranked 14th in the junior circuit in team ERA at a bloated 4.43. Get ready to say bye-bye to RHP Freddy Garcia!

Jim Sez Forecast: The Birds better get improved pitching from a starting staff that is struggling save for RHP Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.71) and right now we see Baltimore - like last year - snagging one of the AL's two wild-card berths.

NEW YORK YANKEES (41-34, .547) - No question it's been tough to recognize many of the Yankees everyday players this year ... we knew a whole lot more about the guys that took the field for a (believe-it-or not) five-inning Oldtimers' Day Game on Sunday!
Yet the Bombers are banking on injured players SS Derek Jeter, 3B Alex Rodriguez, OF Curtis Granderson, 1B Mark Teixeira and C Francisco Cervelli to give the Bronx gang a major energy boost come right after the upcoming All-Star Game - good luck with that!

Jim Sez Forecast: The Yankees were penciled in to win 84 or 85 games this year and that's right about where Joe Girardi's club will land and that's a tad short of a playoff berth.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS (38-36, .514) - Once upon a time this '13 season the Jays were left for dead but look at 'em now!
The North of the Border team - winners of 11 straight games while heading into the series in Tampa Bay - have rock-n-rolled their way to a great comeback season within a season as those 96 home runs rank the Jays second in the AL and there's speed/defense and run production on its way with SS Jose Reyes expected to be in the lineup any day now (the Jays are claiming Thursday's tilt in Boston is the target date) after bouncing back from that gruesome ankle injury.

Jim Sez Forecast: The Jays - buoyed by veteran hurlers R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson - are gonna find their way to the top of the division by year's end and could win as many as 92 or 93 games and that would be an "over" as Toronto was pegged as an 88 or 89-win team this year. You watch!

TAMPA BAY (39-37, .513) - Let's just say the Rays have not exactly gotten to this point in the season in conventional form as the pitching has been abominable at times (the team's 4.34 team ERA ranks 'em 13th among the 15 AL staffs) and it seems that way too much of the offensive burden is falling on 3B Evan Longoria (.307 batting average with 17 HR and 47 RBI) but you do have to believe that the starting pitching will get healthier and better in the next three months and so give T-Bay a rock-solid shot to win 88-to-90 games (they had an over/under wins price of 87.5 at season's start).

Jim Sez Forecast: The Jays fall short of 90 wins and get edged out by Baltimore and the Texas/Oakland runner-up in the AL West.

The NBA Finals- and thus the whole 2012-13 NBA season- is officially in the books but that doesn't mean Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will stop the winning! There's plenty of Major-League Baseball daily winners coming your way when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Plus, the Football Season isn't that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear in early August- can't wait!

THE NBA DRAFT UPDATE

Hope you've been enjoying all out pre-NBA Draft Reports the past couple of weeks right here at Jim Sez - with our annual Mock Draft on top in our mid-week column and we'll have lots of fun with that, for sure.

Now we turn our attention to a batch of "marquee name" teams in the league - we'll look into our crystal ball and reveal what we think could happen in Round One of Thursday's NBA Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn when it comes to the champion Miami Heat, the runner-up San Antonio Spurs, the always-intriguing New York Knicks and the Oklahoma City Thunder:

MIAMI HEAT - The back-to-back champs in David Stern's league ... oops, we mean new Commissioner Adam Silver's league - don't own a single pick in this week's draft but they do own three picks for the 2014 Draft and so don't be shocked if Miami moves its first-rounder (or both of its second-rounders) for next year to jump into the top 12 here even though reports filtering throughout South Florida claim it's not likely boss-man Pat Riley will pull the trigger.
Still, might the Heat be enticed to deal F Chris Bosh and one 2014 draft pick and thus make a big splash with, say, a deal with Minnesota at #9 where Miami could get its hands on Syracuse PG Michael Carter-Williams?

SAN ANTONIO SPURS - The Western Conference champs and almost-NBA champs own picks #28 and #58 in this upcoming draft and right now we'd expect the always-savvy Spurs to sit tight and collect the "best available" talent here and something tells us San Ant will have an international flavor with Russia's small forward Sergey Karasev a hot commodity with that late first-round choice and maybe the Round II pick would be Serbian PG Nemanja Nedovic. Okay, so we don't know a whole lot about either overseas player but one guy the Spurs have set their radar on in Round One should he slide down is North Texas PF Tony Mitchell who is raw but with a big upside.

NEW YORK KNICKS - The round-ballers in the "Big Apple" teased their fans this year with a playoff series win before a six-game series exodus against Indiana and what really gnawed at the Knicks was the lack of a second scoring option behind ace shooter Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks - who only own the 24th pick in this draft and nothing else at this current time - would like to gobble up either Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe or Georgia SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but the question we have is will the Knicks be tempted to deal off PG Raymond Felton plus that aforementioned draft choice to get inside the top 12-to-14 picks and possibly land veteran Lehigh PG C.J. McCollum? Stay tuned.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - The 2012 Western Conference champs own three picks come Thursday night: No. 12, 29 and 32 and gotta believe that OKC will "sit tight" with these picks and fill out its roster than wasn't quite as deep as management thought last year. Here's three names that the Thunder possibly will be in a position to nab, so let's have at it:
#12 - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville -- A shot-blocker inside makes everyone defend better and Oklahoma City needs a reject monster in the paint;
#29 - Tony Snell, SG, New Mexico - There's questions about this guy's "toughness" but he could be a neat backcourt complement to Russell Westbrook who was one of the NBA's top five players before getting hurt in the playoffs last season;
#32 - Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State - If the Thunder is really fortunate/lucky, this former Buckeyes star will still be sitting there near the top of Round Two and maybe his lefty strokes will remind some folks of James Harden.

NOTE: Catch our NBA Mock Draft in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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