Spring training is upon us once again, baseball fans.
It is a time for hopes, dreams and one common goal: winning the World Series.
For us fans, it is also a time for predictions—some bold, some biased and some just plain out there.
The most common predictions come in the form of guessing who will win the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards, while many also attempt to predict who will be the winners of each division.
Those predictions are usually followed by predicting who will win each subsequent round of the postseason, until the preseason World Series champion is crowned.
My predictions will be different.
After all, the winners are given their much-deserved credit. But what do the last-place finishers feel other than pain, anguish and embarrassment?
Well, not much.
So here's giving credit where credit is due.
Here are those teams who make us laugh and cry, the teams that will finish last in each of the six major-league divisions.
The Yankees, Sox and Rays will most likely comprise the top three in the division, with the Jays, who are making great strides, coming in fourth.
While the other teams slug and pitch their way to impressive records, the Orioles will be left trying to scrap together a starting rotation and bullpen to help shut down opposing teams, while relying on their relatively solid offense.
As per the team website, the Orioles' starting rotation figures to consist of some combination of Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Tsuyoshi Wada and/ or Alfredo Simon.
Out of the eight starters, not one stands out as the clear ace, and Hunter and Hammel are the only ones with a significant amount of major-league experience.
Chen and Wada are huge question marks coming over from Japan, and Matusz never has been able to capitalize on his high level of potential.
The offense will be carried by the strong hitting of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds, but their production will be overshadowed by the lack of starting pitching.
At the end of the season, we'll most likely see the Baltimore Orioles' name penciled in at No. 5 in the AL East.
We probably won't be seeing much celebration in Minnesota this season.
At a putrid 63-99, the Twins finished last in the AL Central and last in the American League last season.
The team fell victim to injuries to its big stars. Justin Morneau missed nearly 100 games with concussion issues, Joe Mauer missed 57 games with a nagging knee injury, and Denard Span missed significant time due to issues similar to those experienced by Morneau.
In total, the three combined to miss 221 games.
Span and Mauer most likely will produce if healthy, but there's no telling how Morneau will be able to perform. In the 69 games he played prior to being shut down for the season, he hit just four home runs.
The former MVP is arguably the most important piece to the Twins' lineup, and the team is simply not the same without its first baseman on the field.
The White Sox will give them a run for their money, but Chicago's starting pitching is just slightly deeper than Minnesota's.
Sorry, Twins fans. Your team will be bottom-dwellers once again in 2012.
The disparity between the top and bottom teams in this division is astounding.
Last season, it was the A's who outlasted the Mariners. This season, I predict the opposite.
General manager Billy Beane traded arguably his three best pitchers this offseason—Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey and Trevor Cahill—while not bringing in enough major-league-ready talent to compensate for the losses.
Instead, the team will be relying on players such as Brandon Allen, Josh Donaldson, Adam Rosales and Josh Reddick in 2012. Of the four, Reddick has the most potential, but there's no telling how he'll perform in his first full season as a regular.
The A's did make one big acquisition, though, signing Cuban phenom Yoennis Cespedes to a huge contract. He has impressed so far this spring, but we shouldn't be surprised if he starts the year in Triple-A.
What's going to kill this team in 2012 is starting pitching. Brett Anderson will be starting the season on the 60-day disabled list, and Brandon McCarthy is the only other reliable starter.
Dallas Braden may have thrown a perfect game, but his inconsistencies are well-documented.
The rest of the rotation will consist of contributions by Brad Peacock, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone and Graham Godfrey, but there's absolutely no telling how each of the young starters will perform.
It's going to be a long season in Oakland—one that will hopefully be used to give some young players major-league experience.
It's quite simple, really.
The Mets failed to improve in a division that saw the Marlins sign Jose Reyes (sorry, Mets fans), Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell, the Nationals acquire Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson, and the Phillies sign Jonathan Papelbon.
Although the Braves failed to make any significant changes, the team is all around much, much better than the Mets.
The Mets lost both Reyes and Carlos Beltran to free agency.
Ronny Cedeno and Andres Torres.
Needless to say, both are significant downgrades to both the lineup and defense.
The starting rotation actually could be somewhat solid in 2012 if the pitchers perform up to their potential.
Johan Santana seems healthy for the first time in several seasons. R.A. Dickey is reliable. Jon Niese is a lefty with upside. And Dillon Gee showed potential in 2011.
The pitcher with the most to prove is Mike Pelfrey, who followed a strong 2010 campaign with a 7-13 season in 2011. His ERA jumped from 3.66 to 4.74.
Offensively, the team lacks a steady contributor aside from David Wright. Ike Davis is injury-prone, and it's an unknown whether Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda will be able to duplicate their 2011 success.
In the most improved division in baseball (it already was strong to begin with), the Mets are light years away from contending.
If only Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were still around.
The Houston Astros finished a league-worst 56-106 and were an absolute disaster last season.
The youth movement is slowly beginning to take shape in Houston, though, and fans should at least be excited that they are getting to witness the growth of the team's future firsthand.
J.D. Martinez, Jordan Schafer, Brian Bogusevic, Jimmy Paredes, Jed Lowrie, Jose Altuve, Jason Castro and Brett Wallace will contribute to the offense in 2012, while youngsters Bud Norris, J.A. Happ, Henry Sosa, Kyle Weiland and Jordan Lyles will pitch in the rotation at one point during the season.
If they are going into a full-scale rebuild, the team would be wise to trade Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Lee for prospects.
In what should be the Astros' last season in the National League, there is almost no chance that the team wins more than 65 games.
The sad thing is, that number might even be a bit too generous.
The NL West seems to be a tossup each season, but it looks as if the Arizona Diamondbacks have solidified themselves as the top dogs in the division.
Unfortunately for the Padres, they will end up finishing there again in 2012.
It's hard for a team to compete without three important pieces—a big hitter, an ace pitcher and a shutdown closer.
The Padres have none of the above.
Yonder Alonso could potentially become the big bat, but he's sure to suffer growing pains in his first full-time job in the majors.
Cory Luebke could well become the ace of the staff, but he's thrown just 157.1 innings at the major-league level. It's definitely too early to mark him down as the current ace.
When Heath Bell left to join the Miami Marlins, the Padres responded by acquiring Huston Street. Sure, Street is a serviceable closer, but he is not in the same league as Bell.
There is a lot of young talent in San Diego, so it's definitely possible that they all capitalize on their potential and finish ahead of a couple of the other teams in the division.
Alonso, Luebke, Edinson Volquez, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Chase Headley and Nick Hundley are promising young players who have experienced varying levels of success. If they were to put it together all at once, the Padres could become one of the National League's biggest surprises.
I just don't see it happening in 2012.