Spring training is here and opening day is a mere 40 days away. It’s time to make some predictions on the upcoming season and breakdown the MLB. Assuming your permission I would like to do that right now. I will go division by division predicting how the final standings will turn out giving a brief description of each team. This post will concentrate on the American League. So let’s get started…
I would like to start with the best division in baseball, the AL East. Traditionally this division has been a two-headed monster, but with the emergence of the Tampa Bay Rays, that monster grew another head. Here is how I see the AL east breaking down:
1. New York Yankees : Yea, whatever, they’re defending champions. Being the best team in baseball they have the strongest lineup, possibly ever. Their pitching was great last year especially in the post season. C.C Sabathia was worth every penny and that shouldn’t be any different going into this year. I don’t see any team overtaking them in the AL East this year, so I see them winning anywhere from 92 to 96 games. Players to watch: Everyone. BLAH BLAH BLAH they still suck!
2. The Boston Red Sox: I put the Red Sox over the Rays for 2 reasons: pitching and defense. On paper the sox have the best rotation in baseball. They have a strong defense as I explained in my last blog and their bullpen will probably be a little shaky this year since they don’t have any really strong middle relievers, but if they take a lead into the 8th inning it’s game over with Daniel Bard and Jonathon Papelbon. There are a lot of questions in the lineup for the Red Sox, most of them involving David Ortiz. If he returns to form the Red Sox are just as good as the Yankees. Their 1 through 4 hitters are still one of the best top 4 in the game but the back-end of the lineup isn’t as strong as we have seen in the past. I see the Red Sox finishing anywhere from 3 to 5 games behind the Yankees but winning the wildcard on the strength on their pitching. They should win 90 to 95 games. Players to watch: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez, John Lackey, and Josh Beckett.
3. Tampa Bay Rays: A very, very good young baseball team. However they are victims of their division. You put this team in any other division in baseball, besides the NL east with the Phillies, and they win. The young players are now getting older gaining more experience. I think they have a better lineup 1 through 9 than the Redsox do, but I’ve never been a huge fan of their starting rotation. The bullpen was great in 2008, but that didn’t carry on into 2009. I don’t see that bullpen having a repeat performance of 2008 this year. They need to make young David Price their closer, and if they do that they might overtake the Sox. The Rays can win anywhere from 80 to 90 games depending on they’re bullpen. Players to watch: Even Longoria, Jason Bartlett, David Price, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, James Sheilds.
4. Baltimore orioles: The Problem with the Orioles in recent years hasn’t been their offense. I think their offense is great, filled with good young hitters. The problems have been inconsistent starting pitching combined with horrible bullpens. They will be able to score with the best teams in baseball, but won’t be able to stop them from scoring. I don’t see the Orioles winning anymore than 60 games this year. Players to watch: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brain Roberts Matt Weiters, and Jeremy Gunthrie.
5. Toronto Blue jays: The same thing I just said about the Orioles applies to the Blue Jays. They just lost the ace of their staff Doc Halladay, so who do they depend on now? Ricky Romero? Good luck. They have a decent lineup, but not as good as Baltimore’s. Look for them to finish in the gutter of the AL East. Players to watch: Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay, Adam Lind.
Moving to the AL West where we will see a shift of power in this division. The Angels had one of the worst off seasons in their history, while Seattle had one of their best. Let’s see what will happen out west….
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners made 2 EXTREMELY key additions this off season. Signing Cliff Lee from the Phillies and stealing Chone Figgons away from the division rival Angels. Now they have the strongest one-two punch in baseball with “King” Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. They also have the strong one-two punch in their lineup with Ichiro and Chone Figgons. Add Jack Wilson, Ryan Garko, and Milton Bradley and that makes for a pretty good lineup. If their bullpen can hold up I see big things for this Seattle Team. They won 85 games last year I think you can add 5 to 6 more wins. Players to watch: Ichiro, Chone Figgons, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Garko, Jack Wilson, Milton Bradley.
2. Anaheim Angels: I had to think this one through. I almost put Texas ahead of them, but I like the pitching of Anaheim better. They have a decent rotation, but lost their Ace. It will be interesting to see who steps up in that role. They lost 3 keys players that were vital to their recent success with two of those players heading to division rivals; Vlad Guerrero to Texas and Chone Figgons to Seattle. They also lost Pitcher John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox. Their bullpen isn’t scary like it has been in the past and they don’t have a table setter in their offense like they had in Figgons. This team will only win 75 to 82 games. Players to watch: Tori Hunter, Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar, Scott Kazmir, and Howard Kendrick.
3. Texas Rangers: They have one of the most powerful lineups in the game, but they are always a starting pitcher away. Rich Harden should do wonders for them this season, but i don’t think he’ll be enough. They’ll win a lot of games with their offense, but they’ll lose a lot of games with their starting pitching. They’ll lose even more games with their bullpen. I think they’ll hang around in the AL West but fade towards the end of the season like they did last year. Players to watch: Rich Harden, Josh Hamilton, Micheal Young, Nelson Cruise.
4. Oakland Athletics: THEY SUCK! They have good young pitching wich they’ll end up trading away. Their lineup is weak and this division is too good for them. They’ll be lucky to win 50 games. Players to watch: Jack Cust, Justin Duchscherer, Mark Ellis, Travis Buck
Next up the AL Central. A good division not a great division that is always up for grabs unless you’re the Kansas city Royals. Who will win this division? Let’s find out…
1. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers had a Mets like collapse last year, but Jim Leyland won’t let that happen again. Plus they’ve added a proven winner in Johnny Damon. They have an above average lineup highlighted by one of the best young players in the game, Miguel Cabrera. They have a good starting rotation headed by Justin Verlander, but Rick Porcello is close to taking his job. Their bullpen is average and fell apart at the end of the season, but look for them to get better. I see this team winning 90 games, however the last couple years they’ve been inconsistent and Magglio Ordonez needs to get back to form in order for that to happen. It’s going to be another close race, but i think the Tigers will be able to handle it this year. Players to watch: Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Johnny Damon.
2. Minnesota Twins. A wonderful late season surge last year helped them win the division. They have the best hitter in baseball in Joe Mauer who is backed up by Justin Mourneau which makes for a deadly combination. The Rotation has a lot of questions. Fransisco Liriano has to pitch well in order for this team to do something, but history tells us that will not happen, giving this team no real Ace to turn to and eat up innings. That will tax their bullpen which isn’t that good to begin with. Right now they only have 3 outfielders on their roster. You can’t depend on 1 player, let alone 3 players to stay healthy for a whole Major League season. This team will win about 80 games this year maybe a few more, maybe a few less. Players to watch: Joe Mauer Justin Mourneau, Alexi Castilla, Dernard Span, and Orlando Hudson.
3. Chicago Whitesox: You could easily put this team ahead of the Twins or the Tigers in this division. They have an excellent starting rotation. Jake Peavy and Mark Buerle are two premier pitchers. However we haven’t seen Peavy pitch enough in the American League. He’s had success in the J.V National league, but this is a whole new ballgame to do for an entire season. They also have a lot of line-up questions. They don’t have a lot of fire power outside of Carlos Quentin. Their Bullpen is decent and can win them some games. I don’t think this team will score enough runs for them to be in the hunt. However I could eat my words if Andruw Jones actually plays up to his potential. They should win 75 games. Players to watch: Jake Peavy, Mark Buerle, Carlos Quinton, Paul Konerko, and Juan Pierre.
4. Kansas City Royals: We all know what Cy Young winner Zack Grienke can do. What can the rest of this team do. Probably nothing. Brian Bannister can be good, I guess. No player in their lineup really jumps out at me or strikes fear in any pitcher. The only thing I can say about them is…they’re better than Cleveland. They’ll be lucky to win 65 games again. Players to watch: Zack Greinke, Jason Kendall, Rick Ankiel, and Alex Gordon.
5. Cleveland Indians: Grady Seizmore is the best centerfielder in the game. That’s the only good news I have for Cleveland. Other than that they’re pretty terrible. Players to watch: Grady Seizmore, Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and Astrubal Cabrera.
So there is your breakdown of the American League. The ALCS this year will once again be The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox. Of course I’m going to pick the Red Sox to win that series even though they probably won’t. Your American League MVP will be Miguel Cabrera, and the Cy Young will be awarded to Jon Lester. Any Questions? Look out for my breakdown of the national League tomorrow.