Sell (bought low, sell high): Florida Marlins
I appreciate what the Marlins are doing, I really do.
It is good to see a team like the Marlins overachieve. We are now ending the first month of the season and to see the Florida Marlins on top of the NL East attests to the fact that playing hard pays off.
But, like a Southern Florida spring, the rain is coming—in this case, to wash out the Marlins’ parade.
I love the way Hanley Ramirez is playing right now, and he is my NL MVP at this point in the season. It is a shame that he has little to no help around him in the lineup.
The pitching staff is overachieving at this point, moving themselves up to the middle of the pack in NL team pitching.
Even if the Marlins can stay at this plateau of performance with three pennant contenders in the same division, all of which are massively underachieving, it seems that the Marlins don’t stand a chance of maintaining their position atop the NL East.
Hold (don’t expect anyone to challenge, don’t expect anything to change):
This team is the real deal.
They had the best pitching staff in the majors entering the season, and to this point they have been better than advertised. Again, a downfall won’t affect the Diamondbacks to the point where the division crown is now in jeopardy.
Take into account that the teams that could challenge the Diamondbacks are struggling and show no signs of clicking anytime soon. The D-Backs could have this division locked up by the All-Star Break.
And for all those who worry about the D-Backs' run production, remember that they nearly won the pennant last year despite scoring less runs than they gave up. Their offense is exponentially better than the 2007 team.
I see no reason this team shouldn’t easily win the NL West, even if Colorado can pull a 2007 and win 23 in a row.
Buy (teams expected to wilt to "better" competition, despite the fact that they are legitimate contenders): Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays
Let’s start with the Rays—the little team that could.
I feel that this team will hang around. They will contend for the division for longer than expected, and will certainly make it interesting for the team that does win the division.
At this point, despite the bloated salaries of the teams they will be contending with, the Rays seem to have just as good a shot as anybody to win the AL East.
I don’t think they will be able to pull it off, but I do think they will have a say in the matter much longer than anyone expected.
Buy the hype from the Bay—the team has superstars at the corners of the infield. Also, while no player will match up on paper with the high salaried all-stars in Boston and New York, this Tampa team seems to have a great chemistry. That's something the Yanks and Sox just don’t seem to have.
The Rays’ pitching staff is pedestrian. Their bullpen is quietly the best in the AL East. Their lineup is silently potent and, most importantly, is currently underachieving.
Only a few people believe that the Rays can contend for an AL East crown, and those believers are in the home clubhouse at the Trop.
They are standing their ground against the typical AL powerhouses, even if it succumbs to fisticuffs. They have some swagger and some noise from the hometown fans directed at them.
All of that has led to this belief that the Rays can pull this trick off. That belief is translated onto the field and has made a believer out of me.
I expect the Rays will have something to say when it comes to who wins the AL East come September. And in Tampa, they are saying the winner will be the Rays.
And then comes the Chicago White Sox.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a contributor to JJ Stankevitz’s White Sox round tables, so it is fair to say that I am a fan. That said, it might take a fan to believe that the White Sox can win the AL Central with teams like the Indians and Tigers also in the division.
I am here to convert you to the South Side. Not to fool anyone and say that the division will be a cakewalk for the White Sox, but it is fair to say that the White Sox have the tools to defeat both the Indians and Tigers. These teams will snap to and play baseball the way they were expected to very soon.
No one knows when that time will come, and everyone can agree that the time isn’t now.
That said, the White Sox need to stay consistent in playing well. The rotation needs to maintain its outstanding form—Danks, Floyd, and Contreras need to keep the shenanigans up if the White Sox expect to continue to win series.
In this division, that should be the goal—just win each series. That’s two of three games, a clip that will easily win any division.
The Sox have 16 more games vs. Cleveland and 13 vs. Detroit. It is feasible that even if Cleveland can maintain the White Sox's pace when they start playing well, it will be too late and they will have dug themselves a hole too deep to get out of.
So right now the Chicago White Sox are in the lead for the AL Central. If they can keep this pace, they cannot lose.
Call it home hope, but I think that the White Sox are capable of keeping up this pace.