2010 MLB Power Rankings
Not even Punxsutawney Phil's shadow can stop me from looking forward to spring.
On Feb. 17 (just over two weeks away!) pitchers and catchers report for 12 Major League teams. With their annual migration comes the sports fan's greatest addiction:
These rankings are my personal opinions of each of the 30 MLB franchises for 2010. They encompass last season's results, offseason transactions, and each team's subsequent outlook for the coming season.
If you disagree with what I think, then let me know. It's only Feb. 2, so things will definitely change in the coming months.
On to the rankings!
30. San Diego Padres
75-87, fourth NL West
Runs Scored: 29th
Runs Allowed: 22nd
Reason for Excitement: Following the Adrian Gonzalez rumor mill will be entertaining. Other than that, maybe they can play spoiler down the road.
Cause for Concern: Too much youth in a division that's too good right now.
Bold Prediction: Gonzalez is traded, but not to Boston.
Projected Finish: Fifth NL West
San Diego has a lot of players with a lot of upside, but with few veterans to fall back on, they'll see their share of struggles. Gonzalez could be traded at the deadline, which would kill the Padres in the second half. All in all, not a lot of expectations here.
29. Kansas City Royals
65-97, T-fourth AL Central
Runs Scored: 23rd
Runs Allowed: 27th
Reason for Excitement: Last season, Billy Butler began his ascension toward baseball relevance, and Zack Greinke will remain one of the best pitchers in the game. Plus, Joakim Soria flies under the radar and is relatively unknown by the average fan.
Cause for Concern: Can I cite "all of the above?" Greinke was astounding last season, and the Royals still were 27th in runs allowed. The back end of the rotation leaves a lot to be desired, and aside from some pesky leadoff types like Alberto Callaspo, Butler might be the only threat in the entire lineup.
Bold Prediction: Luke Hochevar finally wins 10 games.
Projected Finish: Fifth AL Central
Alex Gordon and Hochevar are daily reminders of the franchise's failures, and Butler is the only player who can reasonably be expected to improve. All in all, not much is brewing here.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates
62-99, sixth NL Central
Runs Scored: 30th
Runs Allowed: 21st
Reason for Excitement: Pittsburgh has an exciting collection of young players that seem poised to have an immediate impact. Between Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Andy LaRoche, and Lastings Milledge, Pittsburgh should improve enough to not finish dead last in offense again.
Cause for Concern: Not to pronounce 2010 dead in February, but 17 straight losing seasons seems likely to be 18 in just a few short months. The Pirates have done a better job recently of developing their own young talent, but in the meantime it's difficult to win with a collection of players other teams don't want.
Bold Prediction: Milledge realizes his 20/20 potential.
Projected Finish: Sixth NL Central
The Pirates' official homepage boasts the motto "Pride. Passion. Pittsburgh Pirates." At this point in the franchise's history, I'd imagine the fans get more excited about the motto's creative alliteration than the team itself. Nevertheless, each spring is a new season, and crazier things have happened, right? Right?
27. Washington Nationals
59-103, fifth NL East
Runs Scored: 21st
Runs Allowed: 29th
Reason for Excitement: Stephen Strasburg. When he makes his debut, it will be a holiday in our nation's capital.
Offensively, the Nationals could make some noise. Nyjer Morgan has always been great at getting on base and getting into scoring position, and with Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman driving him in, Washington could score a good number of runs.
Cause for Concern: The Washington Nationals are synonymous with Cause for Concern. The franchise hasn't won 60 games since 2007 and has finished last in five of the last six seasons.
Bold Prediction: Strasburg's 2010 will look a lot like David Price's 2009.
Projected Finish: Fifth NL East
Could it really be anything else? Their lineup has some pop, and signing Jason Marquis [thankfully] pushes everyone else in their rotation back a slot. Even if Marquis finds success in Washington, John Lannan can at least be solid again, and Jordan Zimmermann continues to progress, the bullpen will be their kryptonite.
26. Cleveland Indians
65-97, T-fourth AL Central
Runs Scored: 15th
Runs Allowed: 13th
Reason for Excitement: The future is now as Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Luis Valbuena, and Lou Marson all appear to have starting jobs.
Cause for Concern: Cleveland's rotation should be one of the worst in baseball. Jake Westbrook is slated as their Opening Day starter, and with a career ERA of 4.31 and a career WHIP of 1.38, that isn't something Indians fans should be happy about.
Bold Prediction: Jhonny Peralta hits a career-high 25 HR.
Projected Finish: Fourth AL Central
Cleveland could actually have an impressive offense, and they have some solid relievers, but the rotation will be the anchor that drags them toward the bottom of the AL Central once again.
25. Toronto Blue Jays
75-87, fourth AL East
Runs Scored: eighth
Runs Allowed: 24th
Reason for Excitement: Rotation depth won't be an issue for Toronto with Ricky Romero, Sean Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Scott Richmond, David Purcey, and Dustin McGowan vying for only five rotation spots.
Cause for Concern: Aaron Hill will probably regress some power-wise, and no ace means no stopper of losing streaks, of which Toronto could have many.
Bold Prediction: Travis Snider hits 25 HR with 90 RBI.
Projected Finish: Fifth AL East
Toronto's torrid start to 2009 resulted in a fourth place finish. With the rest of the division improving and the Blue Jays dealing away their ace, it's difficult to imagine they will do much of anything in 2010.
24. Houston Astros
74-88, fourth NL Central
Runs Scored: 27th
Runs Allowed: 23rd
Reason for Excitement: Potential. Brett Myers adds a potential stud to the middle of the rotation, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Hunter Pence have the potential to be one of the better 3-4-5s, and Michael Bourn has the potential to be a great run scorer.
Cause for Concern: The bullpen is seriously lacking, and there are some holes offensively. Berkman, Lee, and Roy Oswalt are starting to show their age, and this could be the trio's last hurrah.
Bold Prediction: Berkman continues his odd batting average trend of one year up, one year down and bats .315 with 30 HR.
Projected Finish: Fifth NL Central
Houston is just behind the top four in the division and easily ahead of Pittsburgh. I find that they were the easiest non-first or last team to place in the entire league. If they finish anywhere else, I'd be a little shocked.
23. Oakland Athletics
75-87, fourth AL West
Runs Scored: 14th
Runs Allowed: 18th
Reason for Excitement: As you've probably heard, Brett Anderson is ready to break out. He has good movement, good control, low walk rates, and a good minor league track record. Kurt Suzuki also appears to be one of the best catchers in baseball, finally putting it all together for a full season last year.
Andrew Bailey is also one of the most dominating closers in the league and might be the rest relief pitcher no one knows about. Then there's Ben Sheets.
Cause for Concern: Even though Los Angeles may have regressed, Texas and Seattle improved. While there are some good prospects in the rotation (Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill), they'll need to mature quickly. Then there's Ben Sheets.
Bold Prediction: Anderson and Cahill will combine for 30 wins.
Projected Finish: Fourth AL West
Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jake Fox, and Coco Crisp were solid additions to an offense that was actually pretty successful last season. Oakland should once again be able to score runs, albeit not at will, and they'll be able to close out games with one of the best bullpens in baseball.
Their season hinges completely on their rotation's ability to consistently provide quality starts. If Anderson, Cahill, Gonzalez, Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden, Vin Mazzaro, et al. can live up to their potential, the Athletics could quietly creep up the standings out west.
22. Baltimore Orioles
64-98, fifth AL East
Runs Scored: 16th
Runs Allowed: 30th
Reason for Excitement: With Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Miguel Tejada at the top of the lineup, Baltimore boasts a potentially powerful offense.
Cause for Concern: So much youth. With Wieters, Jones, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brian Bergesen, and Nolan Reimold positioned as some of the team's most crucial parts, 2010 comes down to how quickly these players develop.
Bold Prediction: On the strength of their offense and a rotation stocked with young talent, Baltimore will win 80 games for the first time since 1997.
Projected Finish: Fourth AL East
Boston New York, and Tampa Bay are too much for the young Orioles to overcome, at least this season. Despite the great strides the organization has made since Andy MacPhail took over in 2007, Baltimore is still only a fourth place team, but still an improvement over last year's fifth place finish.
21. New York Mets
70-92, fourth NL East
Runs Scored: 25th
Runs Allowed: 16th
Reason for Excitement: Can it get any worse?
Cause for Concern: The uncertainty of 2010. Carlos Beltran has already had arthroscopic surgery, Jose Reyes is a speedster recovering from a leg injury, David Wright's HR power is a mystery, and management didn't even address the rotation.
Bold Prediction: Johan Santana finishes top three in NL Cy Young voting.
Projected Finish: Fourth NL East
As far as I'm concerned, the New York Mets are now the New York Mess. Due to injuries, poor management, and a host of other plights, the team has no chemistry or flow and is a complete mystery.
If they won 75 games or 95 games, would you be completely shocked either way? You wouldn't, but to help you out, I'll let you in on a secret; they'll win 78.
20. Chicago White Sox
79-83, third AL Central
Runs Scored: 19th
Runs Allowed: 10th
Reason for Excitement: Between Alexei Ramirez, newcomer Alex Rios, and Carlos Quentin, there were a whole lotta people doing a whole lotta nothing last season. Add in a full year of Gordon Beckham, and you should see some improvements offensively.
Cause for Concern: Losing Jermaine Dye's bat and replacing it with Juan Pierre's hurts, and Jake Peavy has never pitched well away from San Diego outside of 20 innings in Chicago last year.
Bold Prediction: Rios has his first-ever 20/20 season.
Projected Finish: Third AL Central
I really like their rotation with Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks, and their bullpen is full of proven relievers as well. Chicago could be a scary team if they put everything together, but there are a lot of "ifs."
19. San Francisco Giants
88-74, third NL West
Runs Scored: 26th
Runs Allowed: T-first
Reason for Excitement: The Round Mound of Pound (Pablo Sandoval) is a fascinating player and the heart of the Giants' offense. The organization's decision to bring back Bengie Molina, blocking Buster Posey, tells me they want to win right now. Those kinds of expectations in a classic sports city desperate for some good times would excite any fan.
Cause for Concern: While San Francisco has added a couple new parts to their offense, it's still less than formidable. They lack a true leadoff man, and their middle-of-the-lineup mashers are still Sandoval and Molina.
Plus, can Barry Zito really have another season as good as 2009 when he had a 4.03 ERA? And what about Jonathan Sanchez's 4.26 ERA?
Bold Prediction: Tim Lincecum doesn't win the NL Cy Young. I know. Shocking.
Projected Finish: Fourth NL West
I love the Giants. I love the way they have built their team, and I love the players they've done it with. Still, it will be tough to improve on last season when two of their pitchers (Zito and Sanchez) had seasons better than any prior.
Could they continue in the right direction? Sure. I'm just not willing to bet on it.
18. Florida Marlins
87-75, second NL East
Runs Scored: 13th
Runs Allowed: 20th
Reason for Excitement: Chris Coghlan and Cameron Maybin have exciting potential, and Hanley Ramirez is the best player at his respective position in the league. Plus, last year was the first time the Marlins had ever won more than 84 games and not won the World Series. What gives?!
Cause for Concern: Like with many teams, the Marlins have rotation concerns, but my biggest concern with Florida is actually with their best pitcher, Josh Johnson.
After having Tommy John surgery in August 2007, Johnson came back in July 2008 and pitched 87.1 innings that year. Then in 2009 he threw 209 innings en route to a big season and an even bigger contract.
Do I trust a pitcher recovering from major elbow surgery who threw a ton more innings than he ever has and who just got a big, long-term deal? No.
Bold Prediction: Josh Johnson finishes the season 12-10 with a 4.10 ERA.
Projected Finish: Third NL East
Florida scored at a good rate last season and should do that once again. Their season hinges on Johnson's elbow. If he can repeat last year, and Ricky Nolasco can avoid a first half like 2009's, Florida should challenge for a wild card and maybe even threaten Philadelphia.
17. Atlanta Braves
86-79, third NL East
Runs Scored: 17th
Runs Allowed: fourth
Reason for Excitement: Atlanta has solid offensive contributors at every position, a rotation with five proven starters, including future ace Tommy Hanson, and big-time prospect Jason Heyward. This could be an exciting season for Braves fans.
Cause for Concern: Troy Glaus and Chipper Jones are injury concerns, and Nate McLouth and Derek Lowe were less than stellar last season. Billy Wagner is also far from a sure thing closing ballgames.
Bold Prediction: Heyward bats .300 and is the NL Rookie of the Year.
Projected Finish: Second NL East
Atlanta has great balance and has a fairly deep rotation. The NL East is a somewhat competitive division, but Philadelphia is the only definite playoff team. If Atlanta can outlast New York and Florida, they have a legitimate chance at the wild card.
16. Seattle Mariners
85-77, third AL West
Runs Scored: 28th
Runs Allowed: sixth
Reason for Excitement: After a somewhat surprising 2009, offseason acquisitions Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins have made the Mariners a trendy sleeper team in 2010.
Plus, pairing Lee with established ace Felix Hernandez gives Seattle a top two rivaled only by Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and perhaps Boston.
Cause for Concern: While adding Figgins' defense to replace that of Adrian Beltre's was important, Seattle still doesn't have a true power bat. If Jose Lopez proves to be their main RBI guy, Seattle could be nothing more than the AL version of San Francisco.
Bold Prediction: Seattle wins 90 games and still finishes third in the division.
Projected Finish: Third AL West
Pitching and defense will have to propel the Mariners because runs will be hard to come by. Ichiro and Figgins will run (a lot) at the top of the lineup, and Lopez will drive them in, but someone else—Milton Bradley or Franklin Gutierrez—is going to have to step up.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
80-82, third NL Central
Runs Scored: ninth
Runs Allowed: 26th
Reason for Excitement: Even though they lost Ben Sheets, he didn't play last season either. With the addition of Randy Wolf, and with Yovani Gallardo set to become the next Clayton Kershaw, Milwaukee could have a deceptively solid rotation.
Not to mention they have their own power duo in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Not many teams have two hitters that both go first round in fantasy drafts (the Phillies and Yankees could as well).
Cause for Concern: While I was just praising the rotation's potential, it is just that: potential. Question marks abound on Milwaukee's pitching staff, and offensively they'll need good production out of guys like Corey Hart, Casey McGehee, and Alcides Escobar.
Bold Prediction: Gallardo wins 17 games with an ERA around 3.00.
Projected Finish: Fourth NL Central
You could arrange the Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, and Cubs in any order and I wouldn't have a serious problem with it. Just like the AL West and NL West, the top of the division is tight, and Milwaukee is going to need every single one of their young players to step up if they want to contend deep into the season.
14. Chicago Cubs
83-78, second NL Central
Runs Scored: 22nd
Runs Allowed: fifth
Reason for Excitement: Chicago's 2009 season was a disaster with injuries to Geovany Soto, Aramis Ramirez, and Alfonso Soriano robbing them of serious playing time. In the face of adversity, the Cubs somehow managed to finish second in the division.
With a little better health and more than nine wins from Carlos Zambrano, Chicago could seriously challenge for the division.
Cause for Concern: The core of the team is old and injury-prone. Derrek Lee needed a monster season to keep the Cubs in contention, and another 35 HR can't be expected. Plus, it's the Cubs.
Bold Prediction: Soto hits 25 HR, good for second among all catchers. Who's first? Either Brian McCann or Matt Wieters.
Projected Finish: Third NL Central
You'd think the offense would do better than 22nd in the league, but fifth in runs allowed will be tough to replicated. There's a lot of competition in the NL Central, and the Cubs' season comes down to Lee and Zambrano.
13. Cincinnati Reds
78-84, fourth NL Central
Runs Scored: 24th
Runs Allowed: 22nd
Reason for Excitement: Considering Cincinnati's MLB ranks in runs scored and runs allowed, it's a mini-miracle that they finished only six games under .500.
Jay Bruce and Edinson Volquez had terrible seasons, Joey Votto missed time, and the pitching staff was erratic at best. Most, if not all, of those issues should correct themselves.
Cause for Concern: Aaron Harang is on the downside of his career, Johnny Cueto struggled mightily in the last half of 2009, and the offense has some unproven bats in it. And what about Aroldis Chapman?
Bold Prediction: Bruce will hit 35 HR.
Projection Finish: Second NL Central
This is admittedly one of my riskiest projections as Cincinnati has a lot of question marks and already disappointed last season. Despite all that, they have too much potential for me to pass on, Brandon Phillips is one of the most underrated players in the league, and Bruce and Votto will terrorize opposing pitchers this season.
12. Detroit Tigers
86-77, second AL Central
Runs Scored: 15th
Runs Allowed: 13th
Reason for Excitement: A good core of veterans (Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Adam Everett) and a talented group of youngsters (Scott Sizemore, Austin Jackson) make Detroit a dynamic and fun team to watch.
Cause for Concern: If you trust anyone in that offense other than Miguel Cabrera to consistently produce, you're either blinded by Tigers fandom or Magglio Ordonez's mother.
Bold Prediction: Scott Sizemore will be the AL Rookie of the Year.
Projected Finish: Second AL Central
If you can't tell, I'm a big Scott Sizemore fan. I also saw Austin Jackson play a few times when he was with the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees' AA affiliate, and he looks to be a dynamic player who can have an immediate impact.
Despite all of that, I'm worried about Max Scherzer's transition to the AL and the team's total offensive output.
11. Texas Rangers
87-75, second AL West
Runs Scored: 10th
Runs Allowed: 12th
Reason for Excitement: Josh Hamilton is healthy, Elvis Andrus has a year of experience, and Chris Davis can't possibly be that bad again.
Cause for Concern: Kevin Millwood now resides in Baltimore, and is Scott Feldman capable of going 17-8 again? Derek Holland was great in the minors, but his 6.12 ERA last year in 138.1 innings makes him a big question mark.
The addition of Rich Harden was key, and if Holland is a question mark, Harden is a ?! (questionable health, but he's electric when he's right).
Bold Prediction: Holland wins 15 games and strikes out 150 with an ERA better than 3.75.
Projected Finish: Second AL West
It looks like 87 wins won't be good enough to hold on to 2nd in the West in 2010 as Seattle improved noticeably, so can Texas improve as well? Between Millwood, Feldman, and Tommie Hunter, the rotation was surprisingly stable last season, and even with a few new faces, I think they will be just as stable again.
Having a healthy Hamilton will be a nice luxury, and Vladimir Guerrero is always an imposing force in the lineup. Andrus should continue to develop, and Ian Kinsler is one of the most dangerous players in the game.
Texas is a potentially scary team if they can all stay healthy, but that's easier said than done.
10. Colorado Rockies
92-70, second NL West
Runs Scored: sixth
Runs Allowed: eighth
Reason for Excitement: Colorado was one of only two teams to finish 2009 as top 10 in both runs scored and runs allowed (Philadelphia was the other). Ubaldo Jimenez is one of the most exciting pitchers in the game, and Troy Tulowitzki is already a star. Watching Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler break out will be fun.
Cause for Concern: Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel will be called upon to reproduce career seasons, and there is always the concern the young guys don't progress as expected. In case you haven't noticed, the division is pretty tough this season.
Bold Prediction: Ian Stewart will bat .280 with 30 HR and 90 RBI.
Projected Finish: Third NL West
It wouldn't be surprising if Colorado, Los Angeles, Arizona, and San Francisco all finish within five games of each other. Jimenez will be one of the young emerging starters in the NL this season, but the fates of the rest of the rotation aren't as certain. Colorado can score runs, but their ability to prevent them will make or break their season.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers
95-67, first NL West
Runs Scored: 11th
Runs Allowed: T-first
Reason for Excitement: Anytime your team makes a championship game, the next season is exciting. You either want to avenge a loss or repeat as champion. In the Dodgers' case, it's the former.
Matt Kemp is one of the most exciting players in the game, and Clayton Kershaw is coming off a fantastic season. Plus, the bullpen is one the best in the game.
Cause for Concern: The loss of Randy Wolf exposes the team's lack of pitching depth. With Vicente Padilla slated as the fourth starter, Kershaw due for regression according to his peripherals, and Chad Billingsley a mystery, the organization of the starting rotation is a bit unsettling.
Bold Prediction: Matt Kemp finishes with a 35/35 season.
Projected Finish: Second NL West, First NL Wild Card
The NL West has finally become one of the league's best divisions. Not only is it competitive, but the top four teams are some of baseball's best as well.
It will be a struggle for each team all season, but in the end the Dodgers will win the wild card on the strength of the front of their rotation, back of their bullpen, and heart of their order.
8. Minnesota Twins
87-76, first AL Central
Runs Scored: fifth
Runs Allowed: 19th
Reason for Excitement: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are one of the best hitting tandems in the league. For the sake of symmetry, it can't be bad that their four best players (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, and Jason Kubel) all have names that begin with J.
Cause for Concern: The rotation was an absolute mess last season, and as a result there are just as many question marks this season. Too bad they dealt Johan Santana a few years back (another great player whose name begins with J! There's something to this...).
Bold Prediction: Joe Mauer doesn't crack 20 HR.
Projected Finish: First AL Central
The offense is potent, and there is a lot of talent stowed away in that rotation. There's no guarantee the Twins can put everything together, but they might not need to to win the Central.
7. Tampa Bay Rays
84-78, third AL East
Runs Scored: seventh
Runs Allowed: 15th
Reason for Excitement: Ben Zobrist might be the best player the casual fan doesn't know about, Evan Longoria is primed for his true breakout season, and B.J. Upton can't play any worse.
Cause for Concern: While Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and David Price are all expected to be very good Major League pitchers, 2010 hinges on that happening right away.
Bold Prediction: Tampa Bay finishes at least 10 games behind the Red Sox...again.
Projected Finish: Third AL East
Tampa Bay should improve offensively with Longoria turning in an MVP-caliber season, Zobrist continuing to produce, and the Rays actually getting something out of their catcher position, but there are a lot of question marks on the pitching staff. The addition of Rafael Soriano was important, but not enough.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
70-92, fifth NL West
Runs Scored: 20th
Runs Allowed: 25th
Reason for Excitement: Brandon Webb is back, and Edwin Jackson has arrived. Add that to incumbent ace Dan Haren, and Arizona is poised for a major rebound. Justin Upton should take his next steps toward super-stardom, and Mark Reynolds is already there.
Cause for Concern: Reynolds will need come close to repeating last season for Arizona to contend, and they'll need better production out of Stephen Drew. The back of the rotation also has some serious questions.
Bold Prediction: Upton hits 35 HR with 25 SB.
Projected Finish: First NL West
The Diamondbacks have a lot of versatility and a couple 20/20 threats in Reynolds and Upton. More importantly, their top three is the best in the NL, and while people expect them to improve, I don't think they're ready for what they're going to see.
5. Los Angeles Angels
97-65, first AL West
Runs Scored: second
Runs Allowed: 17th
Reason for Excitement: Kendry Morales. Protected by one of the best offensive outfield trios in baseball (Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Juan Rivera), Morales should continue where he left off last season, giving the Angels a top five offense once again.
Cause for Concern: Out goes John Lackey and in comes Joel Pineiro. While Pineiro had more wins, a better ERA, and a better WHIP than Lackey last season, Pineiro only dreams he was in Lackey's class. Losing a front-line starter like that places pressure on the rest of the rotation to step up. While the rotation is deep, no one they have is a true stopper.
Bold Prediction: Despite losing Lackey, Chone Figgins, and Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles wins the West again. Perhaps not bold, but the rest of the division is sneaky good.
Projected Finish: First AL West
Mike Scioscia just might be the best manager in baseball, and the Angels have always had a reputation for doing the little things the right way. Even though you can't totally replace Figgins, the emergence of Erick Aybar helps.
While lacking a true ace, the rotation has depth. Plus, pitching coach Mike Butcher has a prior relationship with Scott Kazmir from their time together in Tampa Bay, and that should only help to stabilize the rotation.
4. St. Louis Cardinals
91-71, first NL Central
Runs Scored: 18th
Runs Allowed: third
Reason for Excitement: A full season of Matt Holliday will help St. Louis improve upon their 2009 runs scored rank. Even if they don't, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright will keep them in games all season.
Cause for Concern: Losing Joel Pineiro places more of a burden on Kyle Lohse than I feel comfortable with him shouldering. Even if Lohse and the rest of the rotation can handle it, can Ryan Franklin? There's a large portion of the baseball community (myself included) that anticipates struggles for Franklin in 2010.
Bold Prediction: Albert Pujols "only" hits 35 HR with 120 RBI.
Projected Finish: First NL Central
In both their lineup and their rotation, the Cardinals boast powerful pairs, and that should be enough to get them back to the playoffs. Will they fare better than last season? Stay tuned.
3. Boston Red Sox
95-67, second AL East
Runs Scored: third
Runs Allowed: 11th
Reason for Excitement: With the addition of John Lackey, the return of Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the emergence of Clay Buchholz, Boston could have one of the best rotations in recent baseball history. A renewed focus on defense by adding Marco Scutaro, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Cameron only helps.
Cause for Concern: Most people would expect me to mention the lineup here, but I won't. It's good. Really good. I have more concerns about the bullpen.
Jonathan Papelbon is one of the game's best closers, and Hideki Okajima has been one of the best left-handed setup men since his arrival in America, but flamethrower Daniel Bard is an unknown, and both Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez struggled mightily in the second half last season.
Bold Prediction: Matsuzaka rebounds to win 17 games.
Projected Finish: Second AL East, First AL Wild Card
The Red Sox project as a very difficult playoff opponent because of their rotation depth and defensive strength coupled with a good offense. That doesn't necessarily make them a regular season juggernaut, though. New York's offense will outlast Boston's, but October is a whole new season.
2. Philadelphia Phillies
93-69, first NL East
Runs Scored: fourth
Runs Allowed: seventh
Reason for Excitement: Phillies fans were enamored with Cliff Lee when he came over from Cleveland last season. How will they feel about Roy Halladay? Extra-enamored (is there a better word?). Add that to one of the league's best offenses, and an NL three-peat seems like an inevitability.
Cause for Concern: Is Brad Lidge able to right the ship? If so, great. If not, is Ryan Madson the answer? Considering he blew six of 16 save chances last year, perhaps not.
Bold Prediction: Lidge saves 35 games with an ERA under 3.00.
Projected Finish: First NL East
Florida could provide some competition, and Javier Vazquez's Atlanta departure doesn't exclude the Braves from contention, but Philadelphia is the class of the East and will make the playoffs with ease.
1. New York Yankees
103-69, first AL East
Runs Scored: first
Runs Allowed: 14th
Reason for Excitement: Gone are the days when teams score 1,000 runs, but New York could challenge that in 2010. With some of the game's most dangerous offensive threats at every position aside from both corner outfields, no one can match the Yankees' firepower.
Cause for Concern: Easy. The bullpen. Aside from Mariano Rivera and Phillip Hughes, do you really trust anyone else out there? Alfredo Aceves is a pretty reliable reliever, but there are a lot of question marks.
Bold Prediction: Robinson Cano steals the AL batting title from Joe Mauer.
Projected Finish: First AL East
Much like last season, New York will power its way through the regular season and be the favorite to win the World Series.
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