Was there any real question? I am open about my bias towards them, but honestly is it that bad of a pick? I seriously do not think so. C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Chien-Ming Wang at the head of your rotation, not to many (if any) can compete with that. Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez (even if he's out for the start of the season) batting 1-4, Boston may be the only team that can compete with that. Plus the potential of Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui to bounce back from injuries and Robinson Cano to return to his form from two seasons ago. I just don’t know how I can’t. Except…
Like last season they are struck by the injury bug. Honestly, it could happen, and with older players, it is even more likely, but still I believe they are better equipped now than they were last season for such an event.
2) Boston Red Sox
As much as I hate to say it, they are really good. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury are going to get on base, and with bats like David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, and Jason Bay, they will get driven in. Although their rotation does not have as many marquee names as do the Yankees, they are still very consistent and posses great depth.
They are the Red Sox, they are never going to be picked by me to win the division, and more times than not they find a way to blow it, somehow.
3) Toronto Blue
Roy Halladay may be the best starter in baseball the past 5-10 years or so. It seems like this guy has the CY Young to lose in the AL, and deservedly so, going 20-11 with 9 complete games and 206 strikeouts last year. The rest of the team is not nearly as strong, except for Alex Rios.
The Jays will need big production out of veterans Vernon Wells and BJ Ryan, who are on their way out, in order to contend . The lack of depth will be there downfall again when trying to compete with Boston and New York for the top spot.
4) Tampa Bay Rays
No logic here, except look at the drop off of Cindarella’s the past couple of seasons. The '06 Detroit Tigers became the '07 bust, same goes for the '07 Rockies last season. I believe Tampa is destined for a bad year because of this, but really don’t have anything, but those two teams and a gut feeling to back it up.
They are very strong 1-5 with Akinori Iwamura, B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Evan Longoria, but after that, there is a considerable drop off. They are still a force and the addition of Pat Burrell gives them a veteran leader at the DH spot, except his productivity will be interesting without playing 19 games or so against the Mets (yes, I went there). Also, if Troy Percival, and for that matter Jason Isringhausen, can stay healthy they will have a strong bullpen and will not have to rely on 23 year old rookies to save their World Series run.
Unfortunately, for the O’s they play in the same division as the other four teams mentioned, otherwise I may have picked them as a sleeper this season. With Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, and Aubrey Huff they are very strong 2-4 in the order. Also, with the expected emergence of Adam Jones, and solid contributions out of Melvin Mora and Luke Scott, they could put a decent lineup on the field, and with Ty Wigginton and Ryan Freel they have depth at every position. With Chris Ray now setting up George Sherrill they arguably can turn nine inning games into seven inning games.
So, why are they still going to end up in last? Aubrey Huff is a good clean-up hitter, but definitely not Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, or Carlos Pena and one could argue for Vernon Wells as well. Jeremy Guthrie is a good number one starter, but C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Roy Halladay and maybe even James Shields will always be picked to start a game before him. And the list continues, on why the Orioles are a last place team.
This is going to be my sleeper pick this year. I don’t think it’s too out there, with the Twins inexplicable ability to contend for the division every season. With Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau surrounded by guys like Delmon Young, Joe Crede, and Denard Span they are going to be able to put runs on the board. Also, every team (except maybe Boston, and both New York teams) would kill to have Joe Nathan at the end of their bullpen.
The biggest weakness for the Twins is their starting rotation with Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano heading up the rotation they could be very dangerous, but they have yet to prove consistency.
2) Detroit Tigers
They should bounce back and although their rotation and bullpen is inconsistent or consistently injured which ever you prefer, you could win in the regular season with offense and they have it, even if they did cut Gary Sheffield. Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and of course Miguel Cabrera alone will make any lineup dangerous, when you throw in Carlos Guillen, Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, and Placido Polanco as counterparts it could be scary if they are all hitting together.
The Tigers have too many holes in their pitching staff and the economy is too bad to bet the farm on them this year. Justin Verlander lost 17 games last season, Jeremy Bonderman is coming off of an injury, and Nate Robertson had an ERA well over six in case you didn’t believe me.
Their offense still has big name recognition, but the numbers are no longer there with Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye in the middle of the order. Carlos Quentin is legitimate and Alexei Ramirez and Josh Fields should shine this year as well to help the Chi Sox contend. The same could be said for their starting five, which still finds Mark Buehrle, and Bartolo Colon heading it up, with big contributions needed out of John Danks and Gavin Floyd.
The biggest strength for the Southsiders is the ridiculous strength in their bullpen. If Octavio Dotel stays healthy, to go along with Matt Thornton and Scott Linebrink they make a very good bridge to lights out closer Bobby Jenks.
This team could be very dangerous if Cliff Lee remains as a potential CY Young Award Winner, Fausto Carmona returns to his 2007 form, and Carl Pavano and Kerry Wood stay healthy. Their lineup is the same, and it could be good to very good depending on the other parts (meaning everyone not named Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez).
As if there was any question. Their lineup is not is solid 1-9, but honestly is anyone going to be scared of it? I mean by their ability to hit, not physically scared of it, a.k.a. your ace hits Jose Guillen with a pitch and he takes it the wrong way and ends up putting the pitcher on the disabled list.
Joakim Soria had 42 saves last season and is still somehow the best kept secret in baseball, probably because the Royals only won something like 43 games last season (it really was 75 and they beat out the Tigers for fourth place by one game, so I may actually be wrong about them this year, but I seriously doubt it).
Is that still their name? Or did they change it for the 3,286 time in their 48 year history? Looking at their team, they are now my sleeper pick. They don’t have much of anything with both Ervin Santana and John Lackey currently on the disabled list. I love the addition of Bobby Abreu to the Angels, he is consistent and has not shown any signs of slowing down at the plate (even if his power numbers are down). He is no Mark Teixeira, but will do a fine job as a much more affordable replacement. Brian Fuentes is a solid closer, and with Scot Shields in the eighth still they will continue to win close games.
So why did I pick this team, which was shattered by free agency and the economic crisis? They have won it the past several years and always are a regular season power house and contender for the World Series, as long as they do not play Boston in the playoffs.
I take back the sleeper pick of the Angels and put it back on the Twins, with this division it is a crap shoot and with their experience Seattle will prevail. The Mariners can contend with a solid three pitchers if the stay healthy in Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn and a good bullpen with Brandon Morrow closing.
Scoring will be a problem for this team, which is tough thing to say with Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr., but Ichiro does not score himself and Griffey is no longer Junior.
The exact opposite of the M’s, they will be able to score, but stopping people is going to be the problem. Who ever is better at their strength will end up in second place. The addition of Matt Holiday, Orlando Cabrera, and Jason Giambi will add many runs to their lineup right there. Also, with three injury prone third basemen, Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, and Nomar Garciaparra they will have at least one other solid hitter in the lineup.
As far as their starting five go, I really have never heard of any of them, which is surprising to me and impressive by the A’s because with Billy Beane you know he is going to put a talented team on the field.
Don’t count them out either. They finished in second place last year (granted 21 games out of first, but still) and have talent coming back. They have a good lineup of course led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young, to go along with a solid bullpen with Derrick Turnbow, Eddie Guardado, and C.J. Wilson setting up Frank Fransisco.
The starting five to no surprise is weak at best, they are led by Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla and hope for big years out of Brandon McArthy and Matt Harrison, and rounded out by Jason Jennings who will probably throw batting practice for other teams for several games until a prospect is called up from the minors.