With spring comes spring training, and then the start of the long and wonderful baseball season. With every spring game played, each team thinks they have a chance for the pennant. I'm going to let you know not only which teams will win their divisions, but who will ultimately win the world series.
Once again the Yankees have paid their way to the top of the baseball world. With winning the world series last year and acquiring Curtis Granderson, Javier Vasquez, Chan Ho Park, Nick Johnson, and Randy Wynn, they look to have the most prolific lineup in baseball. By mixing one of the league's best pitching staffs and a lineup full of sluggers like A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, the Red Sox are the only ones in the AL east that have any sort of shot to challenge them.
The Red Sox did indeed try to match the offseason moves of the Yankees by acquiring pitcher John Lackey as well as Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, and Mike Cameron. They also added Rafael Soriano to boost their bullpen. But the aging Mike Lowell and David Ortiz will slump even more than they did last year, leaving their run producing up to Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia. With in inconsistency of the fourth and fifth pitchers in their rotation, the ability to win a seven game series against the yankees can't be done. I believe the straw that broke the camel's back was the inability of the Red Sox to resign Jason Bay. He would have been the main run producer for that lineup and without him I think the run production for the Red Sox will suffer.
The Tampa Bay Rays lack the pitching to get it done in the super-competitive AL east. Their young bats and their ability to run should be able to produce runs, but I can't see the Rays winning many 2-1 or 4-3 games with that starting pitching.
The Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays have been uncompetitive for years and will continue to do so in 2010. The Blue Jays traded away their only bright spot in Roy Halladay, effectively taking themselves out of the AL east race.
The AL central looks to be the most competitive division in baseball. Before the injury to Joe Nathan, the Twins were definitely the favorite in my book. By losing the best closer besides Rivera in New York, the back end of the twins bullpen has significantly weakened. The addition of more bats by the twins should help, but the lack of experienced pitching will prove to be their downfall.
The Tigers looked this offseason to improve, but again experience will prove to be the deciding factor for the tigers. Miguel Cabrera should have a better year this year, but the pitching is still relatively young and I don't believe that Johnny Damon will be the answer offensively. Also, the defense at second base should suffer with the departure of Placido Polanco. Matt Scherzer is an upgrade from Edwin Jackson, but the back end of the rotation should be the downfall unless Jeremy Bonderman can return to his 2006 form.
The Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals are still in rebuilding mode besides the cy young winner Zack Greinke for the Royals.
The White Sox have done everything they could have done in the offseason to make a push for the playoffs. By adding outfielders Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones and the addition of Jake Peavy last year, not only have the run production already gone up, but they also have a new ace, making Mark Buehrle the best two-man in baseball. By mixing the veteran leadership of Paul Konerko and Juan Pierre as well as the young talent of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, the White Sox have the perfect recipe for a division title.
This division has a team on the decline with two teams making a serious push to take the spot as division champs. The Los Angeles Angels have lost the division before the season started with their offseason losses. By losing John Lackey to the Red Sox as well as losing two key players to division rivals (Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero), they have played their way out of the division race without even playing a game. You may say that these three departures aren't going to cost them the division, but the running ability of Chone Figgins and the ability to shut other teams down by John Lackey will be sorely missed by the Angels.
The other team that I look to be competitive for the AL west title is the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners had one of the offseason's best acquisitions by adding Cliff Lee to their starting rotation. The Mariners may indeed have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, but the lack of a bullpen will be their downfall. Their offense has definitely been upgraded by the additions of Casey Kotchman, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, and Eric Byrnes will boost the offensive production. The problem of the lack of bullpen just bothers me too much. I could see them even being good enough to earn the wild card spot, but the lack of bullpen will prevent them from even winning a series in the playoffs. I mean, unless you live in the AL west area or you are a Mariners fan, I ask you to name me the premiere member of their bullpen.
The Oakland Athletics did acquire pitcher Ben Sheets, but that team is just way too young to contend for the division. Get back to me in three or four years when we can actually take them seriously.
The Texas Rangers, in my opinion, are poised to make a run at a division title. With their young sluggers getting another year of experience and that pitching staff adding Rich Harden and the emergence of players such as Nelson Cruz, this team has little to no holes in it. Their one weakness I can see is the bullpen. They made an upgrade for trading for pitcher Chris Ray from the orioles to solidify that bullpen. You may say that this bullpen is still pretty weak, but I think that it is certainly better than anyone else in that division.
The NL east looks to be one of the least competitive divisions in baseball. The Braves, Nationals, and Marlins all have no shot at winning the division, the Marlins being the closest of the three. The lack of pitching will stop all three teams from competing with the Phillies.
The Mets are looking to be the usual Mets that we have come to know: injured and underachieving. With the future of Jose Reyes already looking questionable and Johan Santana looking very average in spring training games, this overpaid team looks to fall short again. Adding Jason Bay definitely helps, but the team goes only as Santana and Reyes go, which looks to be not very far.
The Phillies look to be all but a lock to be in the World Series once again. By adding arguably the best pitcher in the game being Roy Halladay and adding some defensive help with Placido Polanco, the lineup and pitching rotation looks to be too solid to contend with. The only question mark between them and a chance at a world championship is Brad Lidge. If he can be average, they will be fine. But as we have been witness to, he is either one of the best or one of the worst. That is the one issue I see with them, but nonetheless, look for them to represent the National League in the World Series.
The Cardinals solidify their grasp on the NL Central by resigning Matt Holliday and adding pitcher Rich Hill. Barring an injury to the big four of Pujols, Holliday, Carpenter, and Wainwright, look for the Cardinals to repeat as division champions.
The only ones that look to challenge the Cardinals are the Milwaukee Brewers. The always prolific tandem of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder will again have productive seasons and the addition of Randy Wolf will indeed help that pitching rotation. By having Randy Wolf being one of the features of your pitching staff, the Brewers look to have a weak starting pitching staff. With this lack of pitching, I can't see the Brew Crew challenging the likes of Wainwright and Carpenter in the NL Central.
The remaining teams in the central, the Cubs, Pirates, Reds, and Astros, don't look to be too competitive this year for the division. The Cubs are getting too old and progressively losing members of their pitching staff, which will prevent them from being too competitive. The Reds, Astros, and Pirates just have a lack of talent to contend with the Cardinals and Brewers. If the Cardinals can take care of business against the Brewers, look for them to win the NL Central.
The dodgers won the division pretty convincingly last year and look to be even better in 2010. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley look to become a dominant tandem and the virtually unchanged bats look to rake once again. The one wild card in the dodgers season will be the will of Manny Ramirez to perform a the elite level that he is capable of. If he can be the player that he was before the 50 game suspension of last season, look for the dodgers to challenge the Phillies for the NL crown.
The on team that may challenge the dodgers for the division look to be the San Francisco Giants. With the dominant pitching of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, the pitching staff looks to be pretty solid. The reoccurring problem that has always plagued the Giants is scoring runs. Hopefully the additions of Freddie Sanchez and Edgar Renteria should help as long as the growth of the young players such as Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz. I still can't see the Giants scoring enough runs to compete with the dodgers, but look for them to maybe compete for the NL wild card spot.
The remaining teams of the NL west, the Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks look to be mediocre once again. The one team that may rise out of mediocrity is the Arizona Diamondbacks. The diamondbacks' season rests on the health of ace Brandon Webb. If he can stay healthy, look for them to be competitive. The lack of experienced bats and back end of the rotation will prevent them from competing for the division. The lack of talent on the Padres will prevent them from being a factor and the Rockies won't be able to sneak up on anyone late in the year.
The 2010 world series looks to be a repeat of last year except for the result. I think that the Yankees and the Phillies will clash in the world series once again, but this time with the Phillies coming out on top. The difference will be Roy Halladay and his ability to go on short rest and go for complete games. If this goes to a seven game series, which I think it will, look for Halladay to be the difference in the Phillies championship run.