Out of the teams that had disappointing seasons in 2011, which will be primed to have drastic turnarounds in 2012?
Every year there are teams that come out of nowhere and surprise us all.
In 2010 the Cincinnati Reds and the San Diego Padres—who missed the playoffs despite their surprising 91-win season—were the Cinderella teams of the year.
In 2008, it was the Tampa Bay Rays who made a complete 180-degree turn by winning 97 games and finishing in first place despite being one year removed from a last place finish in 2007.
Here's a list of five teams that are set for ridiculous turnarounds in 2012.
Whether the talent was there in 2011, the Los Angeles Dodgers were unable to get anything going due to the off-field issues surrounding the organization.
Frank McCourt and his highly-publicized divorce was undoubtedly a distraction for the team. Instead of trying to focus on baseball, the media was fixated around the legal problems involving the owner of the Dodgers instead of the team's success on the field.
But when McCourt disappeared from the headlines towards the end of the season, the Dodgers quietly crept up and played well towards the end of the season.
The Dodgers finished the season strong with a 27-12 record dating back to Aug. 18.
They have the best hitter/pitcher combination in baseball: Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. The rotation is looking respectable with the additions of Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. They even had the fifth-lowest ERA in baseball last season (3.54).
Most importantly, the Dodgers will be pressure-free with the end of the McCourt saga and the low expectations going into the season. The Dodgers very well could be one of the surprise teams in 2012.
The Cincinnati Reds were unable to build on their success from 2010. After shocking the world by winning the division two years ago, they followed it up with a third-place finish and a sub-.500 record in 2011.
The offense wasn't the problem last season. They finished in the top half of the league in batting average, slugging percentage, runs and on-base percentage.
The pitching, on the other hand, was nothing more than a middle-of-the-pack group. The team ERA of 4.16 was high enough to rank them 20th in the league.
That 20th-ranked pitching got a boost this offseason, however, after they acquired Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to pitching in the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. It is a lot less friendly to pitchers in comparison to Petco Park. There is no doubting Latos' talent and potential though because he truly is one of the best, young talents in MLB.
The addition of relief pitcher Sean Marshall will also certainly help the bullpen.
With an improved pitching staff and an already potent offense, don't be surprised to see the Reds make some noise again in 2012.
Since the Toronto Blue Jays play out of the AL East, they are widely expected to finish fourth in their own division. With the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays being in the same division, it's hard to argue otherwise.
But it was the Rays of 2008 that showed everyone that topping the juggernauts of the division is not an impossible feat. I'm not saying the Blue Jays are going to win 97 games and win the AL East, but don't be surprised to see them make a run at it in 2012. It would be something the Blue Jays haven't done since the early 1990's.
I would have liked to see them address the need for starting pitching a little more attentively this offseason. If there is a weakness on this Blue Jays roster, it's the lack of depth in the rotation.
Ricky Romero is an ace and Brandon Morrow showed signs of becoming a consistent pitcher last season, but there isn't much depth behind them. Brett Cecil is nothing more than an average starting pitcher and Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan have yet to prove themselves.
But when you look at this Blue Jays lineup, it's hard not to think that this could be one of the best in all of baseball. They scored 743 runs last season—sixth-most in MLB—and will have young and emerging players like Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson for an entire season in 2012.
And oh yeah, that guy Jose Bautista has to count for something.
You can't have a list of this sort and not include the Miami Marlins.
They started the season last year with a payroll exceeding just over $57 million, and now it's expected to climb to a predicted $109 million in 2012. That's nearly a 100 percent increase in just one offseason. You can thank the $200 million that they spent this offseason on Jose Reyes ($102 million), Mark Buehrle ($56 million) and Heath Bell ($27 million) for that.
Before the Marlins big offseason, however, there was some talent already on the roster. Players like Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio and Omar Infante make up a very solid corps to begin with.
And I forgot to mention that a trio of Josh Johnson—who missed the majority of the season in 2011 due to injury—Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez was already a very serviceable rotation before the arrival of Buehrle.
They might not surprise people in 2012, but they could certainly make a drastic turnaround from 2011.
The Washington Nationals are my surprise team for the 2012 season.
Despite their injuries last season, they still managed to finish with a respectable record of 80-81. Ryan Zimmerman, the leader of the team, missed 61 games due to a lingering abdominal injury. Stephen Strasburg and Chien-Ming Wang also went down with season-ending injuries even before the season started.
There is talent on this roster, however, and they have it at every position. Take a look at their depth chart to realize how deep they actually are.
In the middle of the lineup, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Jayson Werth are certainly all very talented hitters. They also have some up-and-comers in Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos and Roger Bernadina.
In the rotation, trading for Gio Gonzalez was my favorite acquisition of the offseason. He's a young and talented pitcher who the Nationals will control of for at least four more years. Jordan Zimmerman is also one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball due to his 3.11 ERA to finish the season in 2011.
My favorite aspect of the team is the bullpen. A one-two punch of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen is one of the best in baseball. They are both extremely young in age as well (Clippard is 26 years old and Storen is 24).
If Strasburg is able to stay healthy this season, look out for the Nationals in 2012.