2010 MLB Predictions
Once again the baseball season is upon us.
With the steroid era still looming over the league, players and fans try to move on and look toward the future.
Last year we saw the Yankees come back into championship form winning their 27th title.
Will they repeat, or will some dark horse win the race?
N.L. East: Fifth Place Washington Nationals
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The Washington Nationals are a team that is starting to build in the right direction.
The big news in the off-season was signing number one overall pick, Stephen Strasburg.
The kid is already lighting it up in spring training but the Nationals may want to start him off in the Minors.
I expect him to be up sometime this year even if it isn't to start the season.
The rest of the pitching isn't exactly something to write home about. Jason Marquis was a nice pickup and will bring veteran leadership but he is by no means a staff ace. John Lannan has never really shown much even though the potential is there. The other young gun Jordan Zimmerman will miss the season which is an unfortunate setback. Scott Olsen, J.D. Martin, and Garrett Mock will be at the back end of the rotation and could struggle mightily.
The bullpen is in about the same shape as the rotation, with some decent talent but nothing special. Matt Capps is a viable closer but is definitely not one of the the best endgamers in the league.
On the other side of the ball the Nationals have some nice pieces put together. Ryan Zimmerman has come into his own after a slow start to his career. He is now one of the top players in all of baseball. Adam Dunn will once again be the power of the team and should be his usual 40 homerun self. The Nationals added veteran Ivan Rodriguez to help out at catcher and his leadership should help this improving team. Nyjer Morgan finally got a chance to show his talent after coming to Washington midseason. Look for him to build on his success and have a nice year. Veterans Josh Willingham and Cristian Guzman are back and give the Nationals consistency. The potential player is Ian Desmond. Desmond may start on the bench this year but his toughness and skill should put him in the lineup sooner rather than later. With the release of Elijah Dukes, Justin Maxwell is expected to start in rightfield. No one really knows what to expect from the youngster.
Although i think this team is making the right moves, the division is much too tough for them to not end at the bottom. At least the presence of Strasburg should give the Nationals an interesting season.
N.L. East: Fourth Place—Florida Marlins
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Year after year, the Florida Marlins seem to be a team that is always in the hunt, and this year should be no different.
The rotation is strong and full of talent at the top but has a questionable bottom.
Josh Johnson came back strong last year in his first full season back from injury.
His talent is undeniable and he should be a Cy Young candidate throughout the year.
Ricky Nolasco had a rough first half last year but after a short stint in the minors, he corrected his problems and came back as his usual self.
Make no mistake about it, he is a very talented pitcher.
Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Andrew Miller are still very young and have loads of potential.
The Marlins are hoping that at least one will finally live up to that potential.
If any of these three struggle then Sean West and Ryan VandenHurk may step in.
The bullpen should be good not great.
Last year, Leo Nunez came out of nowhere to become the Marlins closer which allowed them too let go of Matt Lindstrom.
Dan Meyer, Hayden Penn, and Taylor Tankersley give them some nice options as well.
Hanley Ramirez leads the positional players and is easily the best shortstop in the game.
Ramirez could easily be MVP especially if this team makes the playoffs.
Last year's NL Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan, should have another fine season, although I don't look for him to ever be a superstar.
In fact he reminds me of former Marlin Josh Willingham.
Many thought Dan Uggla would be gone this off-season but he is back with Florida. He should return as his usual self, a very powerful second baseman that struggles in the field.
The catcher spot should be a mix of John Baker and Ronny Paulino once again, a combination that seemed to work out decent last year.
Gaby Sanchez will probably start the year at first base but he hasn't shown much to date.
Logan Morrison will be waiting in the wings if Sanchez can't get it done.
Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross don't get much recognition but they go a long way in giving this team some consistency.
One of the biggest questions for this season has to be what Cameron Maybin will do.
He has so far been a disappointment but people forget that he is still only 22 years old.
I look for him to start breaking through this year.
The Marlins are basically the exact same team as last year and the results in record shouldn't be much different.
Although I have predicted them ending in fourth, it would not surprise me to see this team in the playoffs.
N.L. East: Third Place—New York Mets
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Last year was a huge disappointment for the New York Mets.
Then again just about everyone on the team got injured.
The potential and talent is there, but the question remains, what will they do with it?
Johan Santana was shut down early last year, but he still remains a top 10 pitcher, making him fine to start the season.
He should have another fine year.
The rest of the rotation is a bit of a mystery.
John Maine has not looked the same since his breakout year and may be running out of chances.
Oliver Perez is great from time to time, but his inconsistency is extremely frustrating to the organization.
To date, Mike Pelfrey has been decent but hasn't shown us that he is the Ace many thought he would be.
Fernando Nieve or Jon Niese will round out the rotation.
Niese is still very young and this could be the year he comes into his own.
The bullpen should be strong as Francisco Rodriguez anchors the back end.
He isn't as good as he used to be but is still outstanding and should pile up the saves once again.
Kelvim Escobar could be a nice addition to an already good bullpen.
The offense is good, it's just a matter of if they can stay healthy.
David Wright was about the only guy to stay healthy last year but he had his worst year of his career.
I believe it was a fluke, as Wright has displayed true talent, and should bounce back nicely.
Jose Reyes missed almost the entire season last year and his injury was the biggest hit to the Mets.
If he can be back to form, the Mets will have what may be the second best shortstop in the game.
Carlos Beltran will start the season on the DL, which is troublesome since they thought he had healed.
If Beltran can come back healthy he will form a nice trio of outfielders.
New pickup, Jason Bay had a career year last year and even though his numbers may dip a bit this year, he is still an All Star talent.
Jeff Francoeur had a resurgence after being traded to the Mets and showed why he was considered one the top prospects in the game.
Delgado is gone at first base and Daniel Murphy takes over. There is no doubt that it is a downgrade.
Good news is that prospect Ike Davis looks good and could be ready sometime this season.
Many believed the Mets would address issues at second base and catcher in the off-season but not much was done.
Luis Castillo is back at second and doesn't provide much besides veteran leadership.
The Mets did pick up Rod Bajaras as catcher, but it is unknown if he will make the team.
If not the Mets could be shuffling catchers throughout the season, a potential problem for the pitchers.
Although, the Mets have tons of talent, the lack of depth at pitching keeps them from being an elite team.
N.L. East: Second Place—Atlanta Braves
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The Atlanta Braves have taken a few years off from domination but may be ready to be back on top.
Their stellar farm system has once again provided them with tremendous talent. The rotation may be as good as any in baseball.
The Braves obviously had enough confidence in their trade, last year's ace Javier Vazquez.
Derek Lowe is back once again.
His consistency and leadership are very important even though he is at the end of his career his.
Tim Hudson came back from injury late last year looking good.
Hudson is one of the best pitchers in the game when he is healthy.
Jair Jurrjens took another step forward in an already impressive career.
He is very talented for how young he is and he isn't even the future ace of the team, who I believe is Tommy Hanson.
Hanson showed last year that he is going to be a dominant player and a starter for years to come. He could easily be a challenger for the Cy Young as soon as this year.
To round out the rotation the Braves will give the ball to Kenshin Kawakami.
His record wasn't good last year, and had some back luck his first year but he is an innings eater.
The bullpen is a bit of a question but should be strong nonetheless.
Billy Wagner was signed to be the new closer, and although he is getting up there in age, he has always been an effective closer role as long as he is healthy.
The addition of Takashi Saito to go along with Peter Moylan, Manny Acosta, and Jo Jo Reyes among others give the Braves nice options.
If it wasn't for the ridiculous talent of Joe Mauer, Brian McCann would be the best catcher in the game.
What McCann does is simply amazing but he gets overshadowed by Mauer.
Not only is he a great hitter but he handles his pitchers as well as anyone in baseball.
Chipper Jones had his worst year of his career in 2009 and says that if he doesn't improve this year, he will retire.
If Jones stays healthy, he should bounce back in a nice lineup.
Troy Glaus was picked up to be the power bat in the middle.
After a year off there are many questions, but if he is what he was before the injury, he may be one of the better pickups of the year.
Martin Prado broke out last year and showed that he can play just about any position. The Braves will ask him to man second base this year.
Prado along with Escobar form a nice middle infield, as long as Yunel can stay out of Bobby Cox's doghouse.
The left—field spot will be up for grabs as newly acquired Melky Cabrera and veteran Matt Diaz look like a platoon in the making.
Nate McLouth will be at center and although he may not be a star, he is overlooked and brings a lot to the table.
The right—field spot will be held for uber prospect Jason Heyward.
If you don't know this kid's name yet then learn it.
He is already being compared to Griffey, so expectations are high.
It may be unfair to have these expectations but Heyward has all the tools to live up to them.
I've never felt more confident in predicting a great career for a rookie.
The Braves have a very nice mixture of youth and experience and will do everything in their power to make Bobby Cox's last season an successful one.
N.L. East: First Place—Philadelphia Phillies
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The two—time defending National League champs will look to be the best team in the league once again.
It's hard to argue against the Philadelphia Phillies. They have the same team with the exception of an upgrade at third base and the addition of what many consider, the best pitcher in baseball.
Playoff hero Cliff Lee is gone and is replaced with dominant righty, Roy Halladay.
Lee may have had a successful brief stint in Philly, but there really is no comparison when it comes to Doc.
Halladay is one of the top three pitchers of this generation and is often overlooked having played in Toronto.
He is with the best team of his career and the thoughts of what he could do is scary.
The rest of the rotation should be good as well.
Cole Hamels had a very disappointing season last year, but his career up to that point had been spectacular. There is no reason to believe that he can't bounce back.
J.A. Happ had a very nice rookie year but expectations should be tempered.
He is good but may not improve on what he did last year.
Joe Blanton and Jamie Moyer might not be the most exciting of pitchers but, at the back end of the rotation, they get the job done.
Many consider the bullpen to be the weakest point of this team. This maybe true but it isn't as bad as many would like to believe.
The big question is which Brad Lidge will show up—the perfect closer from two years ago? Or the disaster from last year?
Ryan Madson will be waiting to take over if Lidge comes out shaky this year.
The Phillies easily have the best offense in the National League.
Ryan Howard may strike out too much, but he is also the most powerful player in baseball.
Jimmy Rollins is not quite be the same player he was a couple of years ago but he is still a top shortstop and brings versatility to the game.
Chase Utley is the best overall player on the team.
It is surprising that although, this team has two MVP's, one of the isn't Utley.
Carlos Ruiz will once again be catcher and should play the same as always.
Placido Polanco was brought back, hopefully being an upgrade at third base, even at his age.
His fielding is as good as just about anyone and he remains a terrific hitter.
The outfield will once again be the strong trio of Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth.
Ibanez doesn't seem to be slowing down, Victorino is a fan favorite, and Werth may have actually been the team MVP last year.
It will be difficult for anyone to dethrone the N.L. champs with them having as much or more talent than anyone.
N.L. Central: Sixth Place—Pittsburgh Pirates
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The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't won in so long, I am sure the fans must be aching for some good news.
At least they have the Steelers and Penguins.
The Pirates do have some nice pieces they can build around, depending on if they keep them on the team.
However, the rotation is very weak; it could be the worst in baseball.
Paul Maholm has been a breakout candidate enough years to realize that he will probably never be a true ace.
That's not to say he isn't a good pitcher, he just isn't the number one pitcher for the club.
Zach Duke had a very nice start to the year last year but the second half of the season was more of what Duke has shown in the past.
Much like Maholm, Duke is a good pitcher, but not much more than a back of the rotation guy.
The Pirates will need to hope that one of their unproven arms like Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, or Daniel McCutchen can step up to be the new ace and future of this franchise.
The bullpen has some nice pieces but they don't seem to have a true closer.
Octavio Dotel will man the closer spot for now but has never really been the classic shutdown guy.
The Pirates' offense could be better.
Ryan Doumit will look to bounce back after a injury riddled season.
Akinori Iwamura was a nice pickup and although he isn't a superstar, he will be a nice replacement for Freddy Sanchez.
Jeff Clement will get the job at first base. He is a nice prospect who never really got a chance with the Mariners.
He has power potential and could be nice in the middle of the lineup, especially if Garrett Jones can repeat his somewhat surprising breakout from last year, making them a nice power duo.
Lastings Milledge and Andy LaRoche seem like they've been around for a while now and although, both have been disappointments so far, they are far too young to give up on.
The weak spot of the positions is at shortstop, where Ronny Cedeno or Bobby Crosby will try to revive their careers.
This year's player to look out for, is rookie Pedro Alvarez.
If LaRoche struggles, then Alvarez might make an immediate impact. Even if LaRoche plays well the Pirates will have to find a place for Alvarez as his talent is too much to ignore.
Then of course, there is Andrew McCutchen, who busted onto the scene last year and should keep getting better.
He is fast, can hit and throw the ball, has power, and can field.
That my friends is a five tool player.
The Pirates will struggle again this year but if they can build around McCutchen and Alvarez then the future may once again be bright.
N.L. Central: Fifth Place—Houston Astros
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The Houston Astros are a team is stuck in-between building for the future and winning now.
Although they have some very good players, I believe it's time for them to start rebuilding.
The rotation is strong up front but weak in the back.
Roy Oswalt will once again be considered the ace of the staff.
He had a year filled with injuries so his numbers make it look like he is starting to lose his greatness.
I don't believe this is the case though, I look for him to perform great as usual and be a top pitcher once again.
The real ace of the staff may actually be up and coming star, Wandy Rodriguez.
Wandy has gotten better every year and that trend should continue this year.
Although I think the signing of Brett Myers was a good decision, it is still a big question of which Brett Myers will show up.
Over the past three years, he has been one of the most inconsistent pitchers in the National League, but if he can pitch to the best of his ability, it will go a long was in making this a better rotation.
All eyes will be on youngster Bud Norris, as he gets a full year under his belt.
He showed some flashes of brilliance last year, but also had the inconsistencies that come with being a rookie.
The fifth spot will go to either Felipe Paulino or Brian Moehler. Although, I wouldn't expect much from whomever wins the spot.
The bullpen is a bit of a mystery.
Saves hoarder Jose Velverde is gone and in comes rocket arm, Matt Lindstrom and consistent, Brandon Lyon.
Lyon is the leading candidate right now for the closer position, even though he seems better suited to be a setup man.
Lindstrom has all the intangibles that you want to be a closer but had a mighty struggle last year, when given the opportunity with the Marlins.
Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are still great players but one has to wonder how much these two actually have left.
Although, I do expect a bit of a bounce back from Berkman this year, I expect Lee to start regressing some. Not enough to panic but enough to start looking towards the future.
The catcher spot will probably go to J.R. Towles to start the season, but he has been dreadful in his major league opportunity, and unless he improves quickly, rookie Jason Castro might take the spot.
Besides Berkman the infield is a bit of a question.
Second base will be manned by Kaz Matsui, you basically know what your going to get with him, and it isn't much.
At short rookie, Tommy Manzella will get his chance and his potential is undeniable.
Pedro Feliz will take over at third base, the defense is still there but don't expect much from the bat.
Joining Carlos Lee in the outfield are the two up and coming stars, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn.
Bourn is one the fastest guys in the league and will once again be at or near the top of the leader—board in steals.
Pence may unseat Berkman this year as the best all around player for the Astros.
The Astros will be interesting to watch come trade deadline.
They will probably be one of those team that are on the fence about being buyers or sellers.
Only time will tell.
N.L. Central: Fourth Place—Chicago Cubs
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The Cubs are a team moving in the wrong direction.
They still have the talent to win the division, but age could quickly catch up to them and this season could be a struggle.
The rotation used to be a strong point for the Cubs but right now it is a bit of a question.
Carlos Zambrano is still the ace of the staff but he has struggled the last couple of years. One has to wonder if all of those innings at the start of his career are starting to make an impact.
Ted Lilly has actually been the Cubs' best and most consistent pitcher over the past two years, but with his age and him possibly starting the season injured, he could be harmful.
Ryan Dempster had a bit of a letdown season last year, not because he pitched poorly, but because he was so good the year before.
Dempster should continue his quiet success and may end up being the Cubs' most valuable pitcher at the end of the year.
Randy Wells had a bit of an up—and—down year in his first full season. His ERA was nice but his strikeout total wasn't much to look at.
The Cubs will hope that he can improve upon his numbers and maybe even be a top pitcher for the future.
The fifth spot in the rotation will go to either Tom Gorzelanny, Carlos Silva, or Jeff Samardzjia.
Gorzelanny has been decent throughout his career but isn't a player you want rely on.
At the same time, if they end up going with Silva, the Cubs are in big trouble, as this guy has been disaster.
Samardzjia seems like the best choice but they haven't decided if they want him a a starter or a reliever.
Carlos Marmol is finally the closer, no questions asked.
He hasn't been all he was hyped up to be, but I believe, he will be and could be one of the best closers in the league as soon as this year.
The rest of the bullpen is good but not great, but it should be enough to keep Lou happy.
Even if the rest of the team struggled you knew you could count on Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.
That might still be true but neither is young anymore and Ramirez is coming off an injury plagued season.
Although both should have nice seasons, the Cubs need not to rely so heavily on these two.
Alfonso Soriano has basically been a disappointment with the Cubs. He is about as streaky of a player you will ever see.
His hot streaks are nice, but they don't have as much impact as his terrible cold streaks. Expect more of the same from Soriano.
Geovany Soto had a terrible year after winning rookie of the year, the year before. Which Soto will be back?
I think it will be closer to the stellar rookie year. He comes in much lighter and stronger and was a highly touted prospect anyways.
The second base spot is a bit of a mystery with both Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker having a chance, though neither is anything to get excited about.
Ryan Theriot doesn't get a lot of praise but he is one of the more consistent players on the team. He should put up solid numbers once again.
Sitting behind him is Stalin Castro who could be a very nice piece, but either Theriot or Castro might have to move to second if he will see playing time.
Kosuke Fukudome has shown that he is basically a first half player and I am a bit surprised he is still starting.
Xavier Nady was picked up to help but with his injury history they could be in for a world of hurt.
New center fielder Marlon Byrd comes off a career year with the Rangers whose stadium is easier to hit in and has a much better lineup.
Cubs fans are as loyal as they come, but it could be a rough year for them.
The rebuilding process might have to begin as soon as this year.
N.L. Central: Third Place—Milwaukee Brewers
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Once again, the Milwaukee Brewers have a great offense, but they still have questions regarding their pitching.
They may be a very good team but might end up just outside of the playoffs.
Yovani Gallardo looks like the real deal.
He had a very nice season last year after coming back from injury and should just keep getting better, even having a good chance of leading the league in strikeouts.
Beyond Gallardo, the rotation could be a bit of a worry.
Randy Wolf and Doug Davis were picked up in the off—season and although, both are upgrades neither are game changers.
Wolf has had a nice career but has been prone to injuries. I wouldn't hold my breath on him staying healthy.
The final two spots will come down to Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Manny Parra.
Suppan and Bush have the experience but Parra has the upside.
Parra has so far struggled in his career but is still young and could be a nice middle of the rotation pitcher.
The bullpen is very strong with closer Trevor Hoffman still trucking along after all these years.
Besides Hoffman, the Brewers have Todd Coffey, LaTroy Hawkins, Claudio Vargas, Carlos Villanueva, and David Riske, making them one of the better bullpens in baseball.
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are two of the best players in baseball and they are both just hitting their primes.
Both are easily MVP candidates and might be the best young hitting duo in all of baseball.
The Brewers have more than just that though.
Rickie Weeks has a ton of talent but has never been able to put a full season together.
Corey Hart is coming off a disappointing year but has all of the tools to bounce back.
Veteran Greg Zaun will keep the seat warm for either George Kottaras or Angel Salome, at the catcher position.
Casey McGehee was a bit of a surprise last year and will start the year at third base. If he struggles than highly touted Mat Gamel will be waiting to make his mark.
Rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar will start right away and has the tools to be a very good player. He is a top candidate for rookie of the year.
Carlos Gomez takes over in center field. He has a ton of talent but not much discipline. Maybe a new atmosphere will help.
All in all, I see the Brewers competing for the playoffs but falling just short.
Until they find a little more pitching depth to go along with their hitting, they might not quite be a top tier team.
N.L. Central: Second Place—Cincinnati Reds
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Unlike the Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds are moving in the right direction.
With good young pitching and hitting, they might not be quite ready to make the next step but are very close.
Even though the rotation will be without Edison Volquez, it should still be in good form.
Aaron Harang has had a couple of rough years and even though he may not be an ace any longer, he can still be a very good pitcher.
Bronson Arroyo is one of those guys that just goes out and gets the job done. He isn't one of the best pitchers around, but he eats up innings.
Johnny Cueto is very talented but still very raw. Look for him to take it to the next level this year.
Homer Bailey had many wondering if he could make it in the big leagues after struggling his first couple of years in the Majors.
His time up at the end of last year showed that he has the tools to handle it and should finally be able to put a whole season together.
Micah Owings will probably start the year as the fifth pitcher, and although he is a serviceable player, it won't be long until Cuban import, Aroldis Chapman makes his debut.
Chapman's dazzled so far and his talent may be too much to hold back.
Francisco Cordero will once again lead the bullpen.
Cordero has been a very good closer. He can make it nerve wracking at times but he always gets the job done.
The rest of the bullpen is pretty good though there are some questions.
On the other side of the ball, the Reds have some very good pieces in place.
Joey Votto is a gifted player and after a season of dealing with personal issues, he should be ready to put it all behind him and really breakout.
Jay Bruce hasn't been what people expected from him, but he is still very young and has had to deal with injuries. I see no reason that he won't be the star everyone expects him to be.
The Reds brought back Ramon Hernandez to catch again, he was a bit of a disappointment in his first year with Cincinnati but he is still an above average catcher.
Brandon Phillips is one of the more underrated players in all of baseball and should just keep improving.
Veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera is one of the better leaders in all of baseball and should really help this young team mature.
Scott Rolen has fallen off over the past few years, but Great American Ball Park is a good place to get your hitting back.
Drew Stubbs will be the starting center fielder this year and many feel he is just as good as Bruce if not better.
Left field is a bit of a mystery as the Reds will have to choose between Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson, and Wladimir Balentin.
Each bring different things to the table and a three way platoon may not be out of the question.
Reds are a team that could surprise people this year and may even be fighting for a playoff spot.
N.L. Central: First Place— St. Louis Cardinals
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The St. Louis Cardinals have the best player in baseball and a pretty damn good rest of the team as well. They have to be considered one the top candidates to make it to the World Series.
Chris Carpenter came back in a big way last year and although, age is still a concern, I look for him to have an even better season this year.
He is a constant professional and is one of the best pitchers in baseball, even though Adam Wainwright isn't far behind.
Wainwright has become a star and reminds me a lot of Carpenter.
After having a terrific season in 2008, Kyle Lohse was a real disappointment last season. I look for him to be somewhere in between the last two years statistically.
Brad Penny proved that some pitchers are just better suited for the National League.
After struggling with Boston last year, San Francisco picked him up and he looked like his old self.
Penny could be one of the more underrated free agent signings of the off—season and I look for him to have a very successful year.
The fifth spot is still up for grabs but I wouldn't be surprised if Rich Hill takes it and runs. He hasn't lost his talent and Dave Duncan may be the best pitching coach in baseball.
The bullpen is solid but I wouldn't necessarily expect Ryan Franklin to have the same great season as he did last year. I wouldn't worry though, as I still believe Jason Motte could be a very good closer.
With Albert Pujols in your lineup, there is a good chance you could win every game.
Sir Albert is truly outstanding and is one of the best players to ever play the game.
The Cards made the right decision in signing Matt Holliday.
His stats were off the charts after joining St. Louis and even though he is second best on his team he is still one of the best players in the game.
Yadier Molina is an outstanding catcher defensively and keep getting better offensively.
Skip Schumaker will be back at second and does a serviceable job but will never wow anyone.
Felipe Lopez was a late signing that should really help St. Louis at either shortstop or third base. Depending on where he plays either shortstop or third will be open.
Brendan Ryan could play short, but I look for Lopez to settle in. As I think, David Freese has tons of potential at third base.
La Russa doesn't play rookies often but Freese could be the exception.
Colby Rasmus had a good rookie year and should be even better this year.
The trio of Pujols, Holliday and Rasmus might be deadly.
Ryan Ludwick is back in right field and will be asked to produce runs, and that's about it.
The Cards should have an even better year than last year and another title could be in their grasp.
N.L. West: Fifth Place—San Diego Padres
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Padres definitely have some good young players but they are a couple years away from having a competing team.
It looks like the bottom of the division will be their destination this year.
The rotation has a nice future but not a nice present.
Chris Young has tons of talent but has never been able to stay healthy.
He is someone you wouldn't want to rely on to be your ace, yet he is the Padres.
Kevin Correia had a nice season last year, but he showed very little up to that point, so a step back maybe coming.
Jon Garland basically does the same thing every year for any team, he goes out there and plays good baseball with very little strikeouts. He is not a great pitcher, but he gets the job done.
The back of the rotation should go to a couple of young arms that have a bright future.
Clayton Richard and Mat Latos are the two cornerstones that the Padres will need to build around.
Rookie Aaron Poreda is another factor in either the starting gig or bullpen; he may not be up right away, but he has a ton of talent.
Heath Bell had a very successful first year as a closer even though he started to fade at the end.
He could be more of a question then people realize.
The rest of the bullpen is questionable, which could make it tough on the starters.
Adrian Gonzalez seems to be in trade talks every year, yet every year the Padres keep him.
Maybe because they know how good of a player he is.
Imagine what he would do in a better park and better lineup.
The Padres may have finally found another power bat in Kyle Blanks. He is huge and should give Gonzalez a nice partner.
The catcher position is a big question. Yorvit Torrealba was picked up to help out Nick Hundley, but neither is terrific.
David Eckstein will man the second base position, but you have to wonder how much the guy has left.
Chase Headley and Everth Cabrera could blossom in the left side of the infield. Neither have been spectacular but both could become good players.
Veteran Scott Hairston will be in center and although he is a good player, he isn't anything to get excited about.
Wil Venable is another youngster who is maturing but will still need more time.
Too many questions from this team to make a real run at anything.
Give them time though and they could turn into a good team.
N.L. West: Fourth Place—Colorado Rockies
Best Everyday Player
Rockies were a playoff team last year and could be again this year.
Just because I have them finishing fourth doesn't mean I don't think they are a good team, just the opposite actually. I just happen to think this division is very good and that the other three teams will finish ahead of Colorado.
If Ubaldo Jimenez keeps it up, he will be in the talks of being the best Rockies pitchers of all time.
Not many, if any, have had the success that Jimenez has had in Coors Field.
The rotation beyond Jimenez could be either really great or really terrible. I feel they will lie somewhere in the middle.
Aaron Cook has been solid but isn't really a true no. two pitcher.
Jorge De La Rosa surprised many last year with a solid season and although he is a good player, I would expect a little bit of a step back.
Jason Hammel just doesn't strike me as a game changer and could be the weakest link in the rotation.
Once ace of the staff, Jeff Francis, will be back this year. If he came back the pitcher he was then, the Rockies could have a nice one—two punch.
A very strong bullpen will help the Rockies rotation.
Huston Street always seems do be overlooked but is one of the most reliable closers in baseball.
Franklin Morales will be in the bullpen but could possibly be a starter at some point.
Manny Corpas and Rafael Betancourt have proven to be very good relievers throughout their careers and should continue on with their success.
The offense is very strong and should just get better.
Troy Tulowitzki is one of the better players in the game and doesn't get the credit he deseves. Besides Hanley, he could be the best shortstop in the game.
Veteran Todd Helton will be back to the leader he always has been now that injuries are behind him.
Chris Iannetta will once again be catcher and although he hasn't been exactly as good as advertised, is still a very good hitter.
Clint Barmes had a nice resurgence last year and will take on second base again. If he regresses though, rookie and son of former Rockie of the same name, Eric Young will be ready to take over.
Young's speed might be too good to keep him out too long anyways.
Ian Stewart had a nice power year last year and should build on that this year, hopefully with better average and less strikeouts.
The outfield is a mix of young stars and a veteran.
Carlos Gonzalez came on huge at the end of the year last year and has great all around talent.
He could be an All Star this year and for years to come.
Dexter Fowler showed flashes of his speed last year and proved that he can be a nice fixture in centerfield.
He still has some growing to do but should be a nice player.
Brad Hawpe is back in right field. He struggled last year and the Rockies are hoping for a comeback on the usually consistent player.
The Rockies have a ton of talent. I believe the rotation might hold them back a bit this year, but then again they could exceed expectations and be one of the better young teams in baseball.
N.L. West: Third Place—Arizona Diamondbacks
Best Everyday Player
The Diamondbacks had a terrible season last year, but much of that can be attributed to youth and injuries.
Sure they are still young but they are maturing, and they should also be getting back perennial Cy Young candidate, Brandon Webb.
Speaking of Brandon Webb, the recovery isn't coming along as well as Arizona hoped.
I wouldn't worry too much though. He may start the season on DL but that could be a good thing.
Let him take his time and get back to the dominate pitcher he was.
Even without Webb the Diamondbacks still have one of the best pitchers in the league, Dan Haren.
Haren is ridiculously good and if he could be a little more solid in the second half of a season, he might earn a Cy Young award.
Edwin Jackson is one of the Diamondbacks new pitchers this year after he had his best season of his career last year with Detroit.
Again his second half was disappointing as well but he throws great stuff and should keep his team in every game.
Ian Kennedy is the other new pitcher of the rotation, and no one really knows what to expect.
He didn't quite live up to expectations in New York but was never given a true chance. A change of scenery may prove to be all he needs to become the pitcher many thought he would be.
Billy Buckner rounds out the rotation and won't necessarily be the starter all year, making the Diamondbacks look for the fifth starter all year.
The bullpen is a bit shaky even though they have some nice pitchers.
Chad Qualls is back as the closer, and even though he is solid, he isn't exactly your true shutdown guy.
Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman may be the best relievers on the team and although they are good, that isn't exactly what you want for your best.
Have to give mention to Clay Zavada, the best mustache in all of baseball.
Way to keep things interesting Zavada.
The Diamondbacks are a mixture of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on offense.
The good, is Justin Upton.
In fact, this kid is more than good, he is great and he hasn't even begun to hit is potential. Arizona did the right thing in locking him up to a long term deal.
The bad would go to Chris Young.
Now don't get me wrong, I used to like the guy a lot, but lets be honest, he just isn't as good as he was hyped up to be. Maybe he'll finally breakthrough this year.
The ugly goes to Mark Reynolds.
The guy has serious power but those strikeouts are brutally ugly.
The Diamondbacks added a couple of former Braves to the infield and that could be a nice boost.
Kelly Johnson really struggled last year but it wasn't that long ago that he was one of the better hitting second—basemen in baseball.
Adam LaRoche will never be a star, but he is a great veteran who plays solid and can get extremely hot at times.
LaRoche does seem to be trade bait every year, and if that is the case, then rookie Brandon Allen might be ready to step in and take the reigns.
Stephen Drew is back at short and although he may have been hyped too much when he came into the league, he is still a very good player.
I look for him to make more improvements in his game.
Conor Jackson will be in left field after only playing in 30 games last year.
People forget how effective he can be.
Miguel Montero broke out last year and could be an excellent catcher for years to come.
The Diamondbacks are a bit of a mystery.
They could be last place or first, so it's safe to put them right in between.
If Webb can come back to his old self it makes this team significantly better.
N.L. West: Second Place—Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Everyday Player
The Dodgers have some extremely talented players, but that doesn't mean they don't have some holes in their team.
They should once again be in contention for the N.L. West title.
Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley form one of the best young duo's in baseball.
Kershaw is still very young and will hit some bumps in the road but should progress nicely over the season.
Billingsley was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half last season but completely fell apart at the end. I look for him to have no problem bouncing back.
Beyond those two, lies the Dodgers biggest weakness, the rest of the rotation.
Hiroki Kuroda is a decent pitcher but not exactly what you want for a third pitcher.
Vincente Padilla has had some nice seasons, but again, not exactly one of the better pitchers around.
The fifth spot is still anyone's guess. I look for youngster James McDonald to take the spot, even though he struggled as a starter last year.
He has the most potential of any candidate and could still be a valuable starter.
Luckily, the Dodgers have an excellent bullpen, possibly the best in baseball.
Jonathan Broxton is a top five closer and should just get better in his second full season as a closer.
George Sherrill is a former closer and brings some nice experience.
Hong-Chih Kuo is one of the best relievers in the game and not many know about him.
The Dodgers talented outfield leads the offense.
Manny Ramirez will be back in left field, and although he has declined some, he still is a dangerous bat that can make pitchers pay.
Andre Ethier enjoyed a breakout season and should continue his success. One encouraging thing about Ethier was the amount of success he had even when Ramirez was suspended.
Matt Kemp is one of the most talented players in the game.
His power and speed combination along with his fielding and hitting skills make him an all around stud.
James Loney has been a player that people have been waiting for to break out for a few years now.
He may never be the star that many envisioned but he isn't going to hurt the Dodgers as their first basemen.
Rafael Furcal can't seem to fight off the injury bug, which is a concern for a shortstop.
He is still a good player though and could have a bounce back season.
Casey Blake will be at third base again and could be on his last legs.
The second base position will be between Ronnie Belliard and Blake DeWitt.
Belliard seems to be the favorite as he is consistent.
DeWitt is young and has potential, but hasn't done much with the time the Dodgers have given him.
Russell Martin will start the year on the DL, but should be back early.
He had his worst year to date last season but as long as the Dodgers are more conscious about keeping him fresh, he should be back to his regular self.
Although I think, the Dodgers will be a very good team, the starting pitching depth concerns me.
Don't be surprised if the Dodgers are in the market for a starter come trade deadline.
If they land another big starter, they could be at the top of the division.
N.L. West: First Place—San Francisco Giants
Best Everyday Player
This could be the year that the Giants take the step forward without the name "Bonds" on their team.
The offense still has some holes, but they definitely have some talent.
The pitching staff is extremely good and can make an argument for best rotation in baseball.
How good can Tim Lincecum get?
He's played three years, already has two Cy Young awards and he should just keep getting better. Which, if you ask me, is a scary thought.
Matt Cain is an excellent pitcher in his own right. He finally got some run support last year and it showed.
Barry Zito finally showed something last year, at least at times he did. It doesn't look like he'll ever be that Cy Young pitcher again, but if he can play like he did in the second half last year, then he can be very helpful to the Giants.
Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no—hitter last year and continued to progress throughout the season. He could be an All-Star pitcher.
Madison Bumgarner should be the fifth pitcher and could be a contender for rookie of the year.
He has tons of talent and in a couple of years could overtake Cain as the number two on this team.
Brian Wilson can be scary at times, but he is an effective closer and usually gets the job done.
The rest of the bullpen isn't exactly stellar, but they aren't terrible either. There are no real standouts, but sometimes that works out just fine.
The Giants have been trying to find some sort of mixture of youth and experience.
For too long they were too old. Now that their star player, Pablo Sandoval, is young and they can build around him.
Not only is Sandoval a great player, but a fun player to watch as well.
There are concerns about his weight, but he can turn that into muscle, much like Miguel Cabrera did.
Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa were added in the off—season and although both are long in the tooth they should bring some nice offense and leadership.
Bengie Molina was brought back and has been one of the Giants most successful players the past few years and he should continue his success.
Buster Posey is waiting in the wings, and may get a chance at some point this year, as either a catcher or another position.
Freddy Sanchez will be at second base for the whole year, and although he isn't quite as good as he used to be, he should help with his solid bat.
Edgar Renteria is at shortstop but his regression has been brutal over the past couple years and he may not have anything left.
Aaron Rowand has been good for the Giants, but definitely not what was expected when they signed him. Maybe Huff and DeRosa will bring out the best in Rowand.
Nate Schierholtz will be in right—field and reviews are mixed on whether he will be an effective player or not.
Giants definitely don't have the best offense in the league but the pitching staff is so good that they should be able to mask the problem enough to win the division.
If someone steps up and helps Sandoval then the Giants could be a deadly team.
A.L. East: Fifth Place—Toronto Blue Jays
Best Everyday Player
Blue Jays finally decided that it was time to rebuild.
Franchise pitcher Roy Halladay is gone and replaced with a group of impressive prospects.
Blue Jays will probably struggle this year but could be a contender in the next few years.
The rotation has tons of candidates most of whom are very young.
Shawn Marcum and Dustin McGowan are back from injuries and are the veteran leaders on the staff.
Marcum is expected to start but McGowan is still questionable.
Rickey Romero had a nice rookie season last year, and although he may not have the stuff to be a great pitcher, he should be very good.
Brandon Morrow came over in part of the Halladay trade and he may have the most talent on the staff. The question is whether or not he can tap into that talent?
Marc Rzepczynski is another young talent that should be good in the near future.
Brian Tallet and Brett Cecil are both candidates for the rotation but should be just stop gaps until the youngsters are all ready.
Kyle Drabek will be one to watch.
He will start in the minors but has tons of talent. The Jays will take their time with him though, as they have a plethora of other starters.
The question for the bullpen is "who will be the closer?"
Right now its between Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg, or Scott Downs.
Kevin Gregg is expected to start as the closer but it may be closer by committee.
Although the Blue Jays might not have a true closer they have a deep bullpen to make up for it.
On the other side of the ball, the Jays have some talent but also have some holes.
Adam Lind broke out last year and should continue his success.
He hits for power and average and could be very similar to Matt Williams.
Vernon Wells is back in center field.
His play has fallen off in the past couple of seasons but he is still a valuable player.
Jose Bautista and Travis Snider are the other two outfielders.
Bautista is serviceable but not exactly the right fielder of the future.
Travis Snider could be the Adam Lind of this year.
He is a similar player and many believe he has the potential to be even better.
Aaron Hill had a career year last year and is one of the better second—basemen in the league.
He may come back down to earth a bit but should still have a very good season.
The rest of the infield is questionable.
John Buck will be behind the plate and although, he has some power, he isn't the best defensive catcher around. Which is why Jose Molina will back him up.
Lyle Overbay and Alex Gonzalez are at first base and shortstop.
Both have had success in the past but both are past their primes.
Edwin Encarnacion will be a third base.
He used to be a top prospect and Toronto will hope that he finally taps into that potential.
Brett Wallace will be waiting to take his spot, whether it be first base, third base, or outfield, expect to see Wallace sometime this year.
Blue Jays are in a difficult division and will be near or at the bottom, but the difficulty could help this young team quickly mature.
A.L. East: Fourth Place—Baltimore Orioles
Best Everyday Player
The Orioles are an extremely talented team that could probably contend for a division title if they were in any other division.
Although the pitching will go through some growing pains, the offense should be very impressive.
Kevin Millwood was brought in to be a nice leader for the youngsters.
He is no where near as good as he used to be, but he is still effective and will be a nice veteran at the top of the rotation.
Jeremy Guthrie is back as well, and even though he never really lived up to the expectations, he has still had a nice career and at times can really throw some gems.
The trio of youngsters in the rotation are Brain Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergesen.
All three could be very good pitchers as soon as this year.
Most seem to think that Brian Matusz has the brightest future and he could be a rookie of the year candidate.
The bullpen will once again have a new closer in Mike Gonzalez.
He definitely is a talented pitcher who has had success as a closer previously.
The big question is, whether or not he can stay healthy?
The rest of the bullpen is good with some nice pitchers that aren't spectacular but get the job done.
The offense has really become an impressive unit.
Baltimore has found a good mixture of young upcoming stars and solid veterans.
Nick Markakis is still the star of the team and, although his numbers have slightly gone in the wrong direction, he still offers great all around talent.
It won't be long until Markakis has to relinquish his star of the team status though, as Matt Wieters is now here to stay.
One of the most hyped prospects in baseball history, Wieters struggled at first, but if you look at what he did after getting used to the pros, he had a very solid rookie season.
He should just keep improving and it might not be long before people are asking, which catcher is better, Mauer? Or Wieters?
Garrett Atkins and Miguel Tejada were brought in in the off—season.
Atkins will look to bounce back from his worst season and Baltimore might not be a bad place to do it.
Tejada returns after two seasons away and although he isn't the same player as he first was, he still brings a solid bat to the lineup.
Mainstay Brian Roberts is back at second base, and although there are some concerns about his back, he should be his usual productive self.
Cesar Izturis might be the weak link of the team, as he has never had much of a bat, at least he brings good defense to the shortstop position.
A couple of young up and coming stars will join Markakis in the outfield.
Adam Jones has a terrific first half last season.
Injuries slowed his second half but the guy has tons of potential and should just keep getting better.
Nolan Reimold brings some serious power, and although he may get overshadowed by some bigger names on his team, he is nothing to overlook.
Luke Scott will be back at the DH position.
He suffers from inconsistency but you can't complain too much about the slugger as he is a solid player.
Orioles may not challenge for the division title, but they should be a fun team to watch might be better than most expect.
A.L. East: Third Place—Tampa Bay Rays
Best Everyday Player: Evan Longoria
Best Pitcher: James Shields
Impact Rookie: Wade Davis
Tampa had another very good season, it just couldn't compete with New York and Boston this time. Although they will still have a difficult time with those two teams, they once again have the talent to possibly make the playoffs.
The rotation is very young but very talented. James Shields is the ace of the staff and is very underrated. He may not be a star but is an excellent pitcher who you really can't ask any more from. Matt Garza is another overlooked pitcher that just keeps getting better. He should continue to progress and could reach 200 strikeouts. Jeff Niemann was a bit of a surprise as a rookie last year but that's only because he has been overshadowed by other big name prospects. He is a solid pitcher that actually led the Rays in wins last season. So David Price may not have set the world on fire as most expected but that doesn't mean he didn't have a good rookie season. He still has a ridiculous amount of talent and should still be the ace of this team's future. Wade Davis was finally brought up last season and had immediate success. He is a very strong candidate for rookie of the year and has a ton of talent.
The bullpen could be the weakest part of the team. That doesn't mean it's bad per say. Rafael Soriano was brought in to be the closer and although he has the skills to be a shutdown guy, he also has struggled with injuries throughout his career. The rest of the bullpen is basically the same and shouldn't have any surprises good or bad.
Once again the offense is full of stars. Evan Longoria seems like a veteran already even though this is only his third year in the league. His defense is outstanding and his offense is just getting better and better. Carl Crawford has already had a great career and he could be getting better. He might be the best baserunner in all of baseball and his fielding and hitting is top notch as well. Carlos Pena ended the season on the DL, but should be healthy and brings a ton of power to the lineup. Breakout star Ben Zobrist is back and although there are doubters he should keep his impressive stats going. The catcher position will be between Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach. Navarro had a terrible season last year after having a terrific season the year before. Shoppach was brought in to challenge although is story is basically the same as Navarro's. Jason Bartlett had a career year at shortstop last season and although he may regress some, he is still one of the better shortstops in the game. One infielder to mention is Sean Rodriguez. The prospect has tons of potential and has been been impressive in Spring Training, the big question is where do they put him? B.J. Upton hasn't quite been what people have expected but is still very young and has too much talent to be a bust. The rightfield position should go to Matt Joyce, a nice player who has some good power. Desmond Jennings could be the second coming of Crawford and will be waiting to take over somewhere though. Pat Burrell struggled in his first season as DH for Tampa but should be more comfortable and should bounce back. Hank Blalock was brought on just in case.
Tampa still could be a World Series team as they could be better than they were two seasons ago. It is a shame that New York and Boston are in the same division.
A.L. East: Second Place—Boston Red Sox
Best Everyday Player: Kevin Youkillis
Best Pitcher: Jon Lester
Impact Rookie: Casey Kelly
Boston will once again be one of the best teams in baseball. They have the money to spend when they need to but what is more important is that they have become very good at developing talent within.
This rotation has to be considered the best in the American League and possibly in all of baseball. Josh Beckett had a terrific season last year even if he did fall off a bit in the last month or so. He is in a contract year and may pitch even better than usual. Jon Lester isn't known quite as well as some of the others on the staff but he is probably the most talented. He is young and should be Boston's ace for years to come. John Lackey was Boston's big signing in the offseason and while many feel that he has lost his greatness, I feel that he is still a top tier pitcher that will solidify the rotation. Dice-K was injured most of the year last year, but he has been working hard and looks good so far. You know that he will give up runs at times but his strikeout potential makes up for it. The final spot in the rotation will go to either veteran Tim Wakefield or youngster Clay Buchholz. I believe Clay will get the spot as he has shown much potential and some once considered him a better prospect than Lester. Wakefield will be perfect as a spot starter and specialist out of the bullpen.
Jonathan Papelbon isn't as feared as he used to be, but don't let that fool you, he is still one of the the closers in the game. The rest of the bullpen is extremely strong and could very well be the best in the game.
Jason Bay left town so there is a bit of a concern when it comes to the middle of the lineup, but this team will rely more on good defense and smart baseball. Victor Martinez thrived in his half season with Boston and should be even better in a full year. MVP isn't out of the question when it comes to Victor. Kevin Youkillis and Dustin Pedroia make this team go. Both are tough and hard workers. Both can hit for average and power and both are great fielders. Marco Scutaro was brought in to play shortstop. He had a career year last year and although I don't expect the same numbers he should be serviceable. Adrian Beltre will take over for beloved Mike Lowell. Beltre hasn't been the start that many thought he would be when he arrived in Seattle, but he was never surrounded by this kind of talent. Even if his hitting stays the same, his defense is still outstanding. Jacoby Ellsbury keeps improving and although he may not ever be a power hitter he offers tremendous speed and timely hitting, not to mention that he is becoming a strong leader at a young age. J.D. Drew is a player that you know you will get production from but you also know will get injured. Underachieving Jeremy Hermida was brought as insurance, and maybe a change of scenery will do him good. Mike Cameron is the new centerfielder. He is getting towards the end of his career but still brings consistent hitting and fielding to the table. David Ortiz had his roughest season to date both on and off the field. The downward spiral of his hitting is a concern but many feel that the offseason was all he needed to get back on track. Only time will tell.
Although I believe Boston's offense isn't necessarily as good as many other teams their pitching is tremendous. A World Series could easily be in their reach this year.
A.L. East: First Place—New York Yankees
Best Everyday Player: Alex Rodriguez
Best Pitcher: Mariano Rivera
Impact Rookie: Jesus Montero
Yankees are champion once again. Love them or hate them they have tons of talent and could be even better this year.
C.C. Sabathia had an outstanding first season with New York. Some are worried that all the innings he's pitched over the past few seasons could catch up to him, but he has showed no signs of slowing down so far and should still be a Cy Young candidate. A.J. Burnett's season wasn't quite as successful as Sabathia's but it was still very good. At time he can get wild and the walks are a concern but the good almost always outweighs the bad. Andy Pettitte is back again and is definitley the leader of this rotation. He is about as consistent as they come and is a vital part to this team. Javier Vazquez was traded for and although he is coming off his best season, he has struggled in the AL before, especially in his first stint with the Yankees. Maybe the second go around will be more successful. The 5th spot in the rotation will be between two former highly touted prospects. Joba Chamberlain was the starter last year but really struggled, some fell he is better suited for the bullpen. Phil Hughes has never had an extended stay in the rotation but has been excellent in the bullpen. My gut says that Joba will win the job, but that he will have a short leash and that Hughes will be on stand by.
Mariano Rivera is probably the greatest closer of all time. What is amazing is that he seems to be as good now as he was five years ago. He should once again be his dominate self. The rest of the bullpen is good as well and should get the job done more often than not.
Alex Rodriguez if fully healthy and is coming off a quiet offseason. Not to mention that he finally put his playoff woes behind him. He should have another solid season and be in MVP talks. Mark Teixeira was great in his first season as a Yankee and should be even better with A-Rod protecting him in the lineup for a full season. Derek Jeter may be the most beloved Yankee of all-time, and that is really saying something. Age doesn't seem to be slowing Jeter down and he should once again be a solid player for the pinstripes. Robinson Cano seems to finally be the player the people expected him to be. He combines a good bat with power and is a good fielder that gets the job done. Jorge Posada still has the bat skills but his defensive talent and the way he handles the pitchers is a concern. If he becomes too much of a problem than prospect Jesus Montero is waiting in the wings. Curtis Granderson is one of the good guys in baseball and should thrive in Yankee Stadium. His talents are perfect for the stadium and although he strike out too much he could easily hit 35+ homeruns this year. Brett Gardner will be in left field this year. He is a very good fielder but doesn't seem to fit the Yankee type, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Yanks in the market for an outfielder come trade deadline. Nick Swisher enjoyed a good season with the Yankees after a dreadful go with the White Sox. His playoff play was terrible but that shouldn't stop him from having another productive season. Nick Johnson is back with the team at DH. He has dealt with numerous injuries since leaving New York and maybe a second go around is what he needs to get back on track.
The Yankees have to be considered the odds-on favorite to win it all once again. They could even have a better team than last year, but they also have a bigger target on their backs after their championship run.
A.L. Central: Fifth Place—Cleveland Indians
Best Everyday Player: Grady Sizemore
Best Pitcher: Justin Masterson
Impact Rookie: Carlos Santana
The Indians are in full rebuilding mode, it can be a difficult time for a franchise but it was a move in the right direction for this club. It will be a tough year but one that they will be able to mature through.
The entire rotation is basically up from grabs. Jake Westbrook is back after a couple of years of injury and although he has had success in the past, no one really knows how good he will be. Fausto Carmona has been on a terrible downward spiral since his stellar season in 07. He needs to find himself quick or he may need to find a new team. Justin Masterson is probably the most talented pitcher on this team and should be good but he has spent most of his big league career has a reliever and will need to become more familiar with the rotation. The final two spots will be between a handful of youngsters and prospects that haven't had much success so far. David Huff and Aaron Laffey seem to be the front runners but Jeremy Sowers, Carlos Carrasco, and Mitch Talbot all have a chance as well.
The bullpen definitley has some nice pieces in place, but they have question marks as well. Kerry Wood will be the closer, but will start on the DL. Injuries have marked his career and this injury has to be worrisome. Chris Perez is probably the closer in waiting but he is still raw and even though he has the talent it may be too soon for him to take over.
Grady Sizemore is back from injury and the Indians will really need him to take a step forward. He has always been a terrific player but hasn't quite become that superstar that they need him to be. Travis Hafner is still the DH but to expect him to the be the player he once was is just unrealistic at this point. He can still be valuable and has power but Cleveland won't be able to lean on him as much as they used to. Shin Soo-Choo had an outstanding year that many just didn't hear about. He is a very good player and could actually be better than Grady. Matt LaPorta will be the other outfielder and the potential is still there. It seems like he has been a prospect forever but now will be the time that the Indians need him to live up to his potential. Lou Marson will start the year as the catcher, and no offense to him, but he is just keeping homeplate warm for Carlos Santana. Santana figures to be a key pieces in the Indians future. Russell Branyan was basically brought in to give this team some pop. He isn't a terrific hitter or fielder but his power can be outstanding at times. Luis Valbuena is at second base and even though he isn't spectacular he should be good enough for Cleveland. Asdrubal Cabrera is at shortstop and is one of the most underrated players in the game. He has finally settled into being a major league ballplayer and should keep getting better. Jhonny Peralta is now the third baseman, he has been a mainstay for Cleveland but his stats are moving in the wrong direction. Indians will hope the permanent move to third will help him regain his form.
It will probably be a rough season for Cleveland but that doesn't mean it will be a lost season. Indians have a history of rebuilding and this go around might not take as long as some expect.
A.L. Central: Fourth Place—Kansas City Royals
Best Everyday Player: Billy Butler
Best Pitcher: Zack Greinke
Impact Rookie: Aaron Crow
The Royals have some great pieces in place but they are far from having a team that will compete with the big boys.
Young players will need to develop quickly for this team to be successful.
Zack Greinke's season was truly remarkable. What he did on the team he was on should not go overlooked. He has really put everything together and is one of the best pitchers in baseball. He may be the only player on the team without a question mark. Gil Meche is usually consistent but last year was a disappointment. His history tells us that he should bounce back but sometimes that is easier said than done. Luke Hocheaver, Kyle Davies, and Brian Bannister have all shown terrific stuff and times, but have also been terrible as well. Hocheaver has the most upside and still has a chance to be outstanding. Davies and Bannister can be good pitchers but it looks like neither will be top of the rotation guys. Robinson Tejada had some decent outings last year and will be waiting if anyone falters.
Joakim Soria had to deal with injuries last season, but make no mistake about it, he is one of the most talented closers in baseball. As long as he stays healthy the Royals should have a solid bullpen. Juan Cruz struggled last year but I believe that had to do with being moved around in the bullpen too much. He should bounce back nicely and be one of the better relievers in the game.
There aren't many positions that are completely set for the Royals. The one that is, is first base. Billy Butler seems like he has been around forever but is only 23. He looked like he was finally putting it all together in the second half last year and a big season could be in his grasp. Jason Kendall will be the new catcher this year and although he is a terrific leader, he has lost most of his hitting skills. Brayan Pena hasn't gotten a full opportunity in his big league career and could be a good catcher if Royals give him a chance. The middle infield is a bit of a jumble. At second base Chris Getz was brought in to compete with Alberto Callaspo. Getz has more potential but Callaspo was very good at times last year. At shortstop, Yuniesky Betancourt and Mike Aviles will probably split time, Aviles dealt with injuries last year and may be the better player but Betancourt brings the experience. Alex Gordon will be a third base. He is on the cusp of being labeled a bust, but it still a bit too soon for that. Yes he hasn't been nearly as good as just about every scout said he would be, but he has had to deal with injuries and position changes too much for a player his age, I am still a believer. The outfield has almost as much questions as the infield. Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel were brought in to give this team a new look, but neither are exactly game changers. David DeJesus will be back in rightfield and is an underrated player but again, not exactly a star. Jose Guillen is at DH again and he along with Alfonso Soriano might be the streakiest players in the game. Being streaky with his injury problems and temper aren't a good mixture.
Royals have some very good players but they need to find consistency otherwise it will be another up and down season for Kansas City.
A.L. Central: Third Place—Minnesota Twins
Best Everyday Player: Joe Mauer
Best Pitcher: Scott Baker
Impact Rookie: Danny Valencia
Twins always find a way to win, and it led them to a division title once again. The A.L. Central should be a three team race this year and Twins have just as good a chance as any to take home the top spot.
Francisco Liriano is once again the big question for the rotation this season. Liriano looked lost last year and many believe that he will never be the pitcher he was before injury. He has been outstanding in spring training though and has worked hard to regain his form. I believe it is too soon to give up on a player that once had so much talent. Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are names that aren't well known but are two pitchers the get the job done almost every time out. Both are still young and have the potential to get even better. Carl Pavano finally put a healthy season together, it wasn't great but it wasn't bad either. Twins saw enough to bring him back and he is a valuable middle of the rotations starter. Nick Blackburn isn't going to set the world on fire with is stuff but he gets the job done and does what you want from your back of the rotation starters.
The bullpen went from one of the best to a huge question mark. Saves eater Joe Nathan is out for the year and this could hurt the team more than people realize. Twins still have a good bullpen but everyone will need to step up their game to fill in for Nathan. Right now the closer role will probably be between Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek, both are very good pitchers but it is unrealistic to think they will be as effective as Nathan.
Joe Mauer is a special player. We've known that since he came into the league and he just solidified it last season. He could be the best pure hitter in the game and seems to have added power as well. Not to mention the fact that he is outstanding defensively and is a clubhouse leader. Justin Morneau had another outstanding year that was ended by injuries. When healthy though Morneau puts out great numbers and is an MVP type player. As long as he can stay away from the injury bug expect a big season from Morneau. The middle of the infield was overhauled with the additions of Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy. Hudson's season was a tale of two years with the first half being terrific and the second half leading to him losing his starting gig. Either way he should be a step up for Minnesota. J.J. Hardy is only a year removed from being one of the better hitting shortstops in the game and Milwaukee may have given up on him too soon. A bounce back is a very real possibility for Hardy. Brendan Harris and Nick Punto will split third base duties for now, and while you have to admire their hard play, neither seems fit to be a starter, it may not be too long before Danny Valencia gets his chance to shine. Denard Span keeps taking steps in the right direction and is starting to remind some of Torii Hunter. His growing talent should continue this year. Delmon Young just hasn't put it all together. The former first pick has been disappointing to date but the Twins don't want to give up yet. He is still young and has a chance to fulfill his potential but time is running out. Michael Cuddyer stepped up in a big way when Morneau was hurt and was a big part of the Twins winning the division. Cuddyer is another hard worker whose numbers may step back a bit but should still be productive. Jason Kubel will be at DH and he was another player that came into his own last year. As long as he can stay consistent he should have another fine year. Jim Thome was brought in and will bring some nice pop off the bench and will be a good bad to have when Kubel needs a day off or is playing in the outfield.
Twins have a new stadium and have all the pieces in place to win the division once again. The Joe Nathan injury may hurt them more than some realize though and could keep them just out of the playoffs.
A.L. Central: Second place—Chicago White Sox
Best Everyday Player: Gordon Beckham
Best Pitcher: Jake Peavy
Impact Rookie: Dan Hudson
White Sox have a nice mix of talent once again, but that has never been the problem, the problem is getting the talent to play at a consistent level and mesh with each other.
The rotation is very solid again this year and should be even better. Jake Peavy seems healthy and isn't far removed from being considered a top five pitcher. The AL is a harder place to pitch and the cell is a hitters ballpark but he seemed to handle it well in his short stint last year. Mark Buehrle had one of the greatest moments of the season last year with his perfect game. He is one of the least flashy players in baseball but is also one of the most professional and most consistent players around. You can't help but like the guy. Gavin Floyd and John Danks are both getting better and better, Floyd seems to have really taken the next step and may have surpassed Danks in terms of who is better. Both should continue their success and have fine seasons once again. Old man Freddy Garcia is expected to start the season as fifth starter and while he can still be effective it won't be long before ultra talented Dan Hudson is brought in to start his big league career.
The bullpen is still solid even though Bobby Jenks seems to have lost a step or two. Jenks will be the closer once again but if he starts to falter than Matt Thornton or J.J. Putz will be ready to take over.
The offense is interesting to look at. They have the personnel to be one of the best in the game but as stated before consistency can be a problem. A.J. Pierzynski had what could have been his best season to date, but age is creeping up on him and that can hit a catcher quicker than any other position. Prospect Tyler Flowers should help if Pierzynski falls off though. Paul Konerko has been one of the most productive players of the past ten years but age is also a concern with him and there isn't a player that is ready to take over first base if he falters. Gordon Beckham didn't last long in the minors, he was just too good. He looks like he will be a star and has the intangibles to be the next Chase Utley. Alexi Ramirez didn't have the season that most expected him to have last year. He wasn't bad but he needs to be more patient at the plate. His hustle is outstanding but Ozzie won't put up with his inconsistencies. Mark Teahen is the new thirdbaseman. This guy seems to have had hype around him his whole career but never really shown why. He is a decent player but I don't expect the move to a better lineup will make him that much better. Juan Pierre will be in left field and you know what you will get with him. A good leadoff bat that has speed and no power. He is a good fielder and a hard worker. Alex Rios was a surprise sign but Chicago last year and he did nothing to prove that it was worth it. He has been a bit of a disappointment his entire career and will need to produce at a much higher level to prove he is worth his huge contract. Carlos Quentin was probably the MVP of the 08 season before an injury ended his year. Last year he never really bounced back and there is concern as to whether his 08 season was a fluke. The main concern will be keeping him injury free, because even if he isn't quite as good as the 08 season he is still a solid player when healthy. The DH spot goes to Andruw Jones. He just can't seem to find what once made him a great player. He still has some power but the batting average is so bad that it isn't usually worth the pop he brings. The cell might be a good spot for him, and he will need consistent playing time to be an effective player.
White Sox have too much talent to not contend for the Central. As long as Ozzie can keep these guys (and himself) in check they have a very good chance to win the division.
A.L. Central: First place—Detroit Tigers
Best Everyday Player: Miguel Cabrera
Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander
Impact Rookie: Scott Sizemore
Tigers fell one game short of making the playoffs last year. Although they lost a couple of all stars in Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, they still have a ton of talent with tons of potential.
Justin Verlander has cemented himself as an ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. He led the league in strikeouts last year and should just keep getting better. You can't ask for more from your number one pitcher. Rick Porcello was only 19 when he started the season last year, but he never looked back. His demeanor for a kid his age is unheard of and he just got better as the season progressed. He will still go through some growing pains but his talent is for real and he should become a dominant pitcher. Max Scherzer was part of the big trade. His stuff if electric and dominate, now he just needs to learn how to harness it and become a consistent pitcher. Jeremy Bonderman is still only 27 and although he hasn't truly played a injury free season since 07, he has looked healthy in spring training. He was once considered a potential ace and although he may not be that any longer, he can still be a very productive middle of the rotation starter. The fifth spot in the rotation is still up for grabs. Armando Galarraga was sent down to the minors, so he won't be the starter, at least not at first. Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis, and Eddie Bonine are the candidates. Willis has dealt with control issues and anxiety problems over the past few years but says he is past that. His Spring Training has been phenomenal and if that was the only qualification, he would definitley win the spot. Robertson has had experience as a starter but has never been good or consistent enough to keep a hold on hit. Bonine did decent in his stay last year but may not be ready.
The bullpen looks very solid with the addition of Jose Valverde. Valverde is the best closer the Tigers have had in 20+ years. He gives players like Joel Zumaya, Ryan Perry, and others the chance to grow before they are given bigger roles.
The offense definitley has a different look. It still has some mainstays in players like Miguel Cabrera. It's insane that he is only 27 and may not have even hit his ceiling yet. He is one of the best players in baseball and is actually becoming a good fielder at first base as well. Placido Polanco is gone at second base but Scott Sizemore seems ready to take over. He definitley doesn't have the defensive skills as Polanco, but he brings a good bat with power and speed. Everett was brought back at the shortstop position, his bat can be hard to deal with but his defense makes up for it. Brandon Inge had surgery on his knees which should help keep him fresh. He faded fast last year. His fielding is as good as any at third and while the power is nice his batting average is hard to swallow at times. The catcher position will be one to watch as Gerald Laird is probably the most underrated defensive catcher in the league but his offense leaves much to be desired. Surprising youngster Alex Avila was successful last year and could be the starter by season's end. The outfield looks different with Johnny Damon taking over in left. He isn't much of a fielder but still has a good bat and good speed. Those intangibles along with his leadership was worth the one year risk. Rookie Austin Jackson will finally get a chance, the chance that the Yankees never gave him. He projects to be very similar as Granderson. A good fielder that has speed and a good bat with power potential, but like Granderson he seems to strikeout too much. Magglio Ordonez will be back in right field and while he had a dreadful start last year he was one of the better pure hitters in the second half. I may be in the minority but I believe a season of .300 with 20 homers and 90 RBI's could be in reach. Carlos Guillen will be at DH this year which is vital to keeping him healthy. I am not as convinced that he will bounce back but there is no doubt that he will give it his all.
Tigers are a bit of a mystery but have a great mix of proven talent with up and coming stars. Although I believe this division will be very tight (another one game playoff, isn't out of the question.) I believe the Tigers have what it takes to be A.L. Central Champions.
A.L. West: Fourth Place—Oakland Athletics
Best Everyday Player: Kurt Suzuki
Best Pitcher: Ben Sheets
Impact Rookie: Chirs Carter
Oakland is still rebuilding, and while the pitching looks like it should be strong the hitting is still a huge question mark. The A's have some good talent but it should be a couple of years before they really start to contend again.
All eyes are on Ben Sheets. After taking a year off to recover from injury, Sheets is back. His talent has never been in doubt, but he has never been able to stay healthy as well. He should put up a solid season and be a nice leader for the extremely young rotation. Brett Anderson had an outstanding rookie year last year and even though the record might not have shown it all his other stats did, he happened to have have bad luck and no run support. He has the makings to be the next in a long line of great A's pitchers. Dallas Braden is another that had a nice season last year. He isn't a guy that overpowers people but has some good tools and should be a solid starter. The rest of the rotation is up from grabs. Trevor Cahill and Vin Mazzaro are good young pitchers but they may not be able to hold of Gio Gonzalez who projects to be a better pitcher. Another pitcher in the mix will be Justin Duchscherer. He is back from injury and was their star pitcher two years ago.
The bullpen is extremely strong, and definitley has a case for being the best in all of baseball. Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey will be the closer once again and he should continue to improve on his phenomenal success. Brad Ziegler and Joey Devine could be closers as well but instead they along with Bailey just make up a trio of young pitchers that can shut down the opposition for Oakland.
The Athletics have no stars to speak of on offense, but they have some good players to build around. Kurt Suzuki is probably the most underrated catcher in baseball. He is a solid hitter with pop and a good defender. Daric Barton starts the year at first base, but he hasn't shown much in his game. Jake Fox or Chris Carter could take over sooner rather than later. Fox also has a chance at third base, outfield, or DH as well. Mark Ellis is similar to Suzuki in the fact that he gets the job done at second base. He isn't a superstar but he plays hard and produces consistently. Cliff Pennington will be the shortstop. He is a good fielder with a decent bat and some speed, time will tell if he is a true starter or a utility man. Kevin Kouzmanoff was brought over to play third base. He has been a good player but hasn't quite lived up to the hype, playing in San Diego didn't help, but Oakland won't be a much easier spot to hit in. Rajai Davis had an excellent season last year and earned his starting position in the outfield. His batting and speed should keep him in the lineup. Coco Crisp is the new centerfielder. He hasn't been a productive player since 07, but still has some good skills that should help Oakland if he stays healthy. Ryan Sweeney is in the outfield and while he produces a nice average, there isn't much more. Oakland may opt for someone who can produce runs. Jack Cust will once again be the DH. With Cust you know he will either walk, strikeout, or hit a homerun. It's basically what he does.
Oakland has a nice future ahead of them, especially if they can keep their young pitchers together and find a few more players on offense. The future isn't now, but it is close.
A.L. West: Third place—Texas Rangers
Best Everyday Player: Ian Kinsler
Best Pitcher: Rich Harden
Impact Rookie: Nefatali Feliz
Rangers once again will have a top notch offense, the question is whether they can finally put the pitching together. If they can this team could be deadly.
Scott Feldman is considered the ace of the staff and while his 17 wins were impressive last year, he could take a step back. That's not to say he is a bad pitcher but a closer look at the stats show that luck swung his way more often than not. Rich Harden was signed in the offseason. His injury history is well documented and you can pretty much bank on him spending time on the DL, but when he pitches he still pitches great. There still is some question as to who will round out the rotation. Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, and Matt Harrison are the leading candidates but Brandon McCarthy, Derek Holland, and Nefatali Feliz all have a chance as well. Feliz of course has the most potential but there are those who feel he would be better in the bullpen, I tend to disagree and feel he could be the ace the team has been looking for, for so long.
Rangers have some nice players in place for the bullpen, but they still struggle at times. Frank Francisco is a good closer but has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He hasn't really had the chance to become fully familiar with being a closer so he will need time.
I talked about how talented the offense is, and while that is true they have also dealt with many injuries. Josh Hamilton was one of the best players in the league in 08, but could never really work through injuries last year. There is question to whether he can be a true star or if all the damage he has done to his body will keep him from really breaking through. I believe he has too much talent to be held back. He should have a nice bounce back season. Ian Kinsler is a sensational second baseman but he also seems to deal with injuries every year. If he could stay healthy for a full season then 40 homeruns isn't out of the question. Elvis Andrus had a solid rookie season and should just improve upon his numbers this year. At only 21 years old he has established himself as a very good fielder with speed. His bat should develop over time, but the power will probably never be spectacular. Chris Davis will get another shot at first base. He has a very rough season last year but showed signs if improvement over the last month. His power is not in doubt but he will need to get on base more often to make it worth the trouble. Michael Young has had an outstanding career. He is consistent and a great leader who produces year after year. Age is creeping up on him but he should put together another solid performance. Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been a huge disappointment since coming over in the Mark Teixeira trade. He will get another chance this year but unless his bat starts producing he will be replaced with the superior defender in Taylor Teagarden. Nelson Cruz had a breakthrough year at a veteran age, but he should be able to keep it going. His power numbers especially are good, and although he doesn't have a terrific average he doesn't really hurt the Texans either. Julio Borbon was very impressive last year as he has earned the starting job. If he can build upon his numbers he will be a very good ballplayer. One interesting signing in the offseason was Vladimir Guerrero. He will be the DH this year and while he isn't the player he used to be, he can focus on hitting and not worry about injuries as much. A big bounce back year could be in the making.
Texas should compete for the division title this year, they have as much talent as anyone in the division. In the end I believe there pitching won't be quite enough top put them over the top though.
A.L. West: Second place—Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Best everyday player: Kendry Morales
Best Pitcher: Jered Weaver
Impact Rookie: Trevor Reckling
Angels have dominated the West for the better part of the last decade. They still have an excellent team but the gap is closing. They have a bit of a different look this year with two of their stars Vlady and Figgins gone.
The rotation is still very strong even with the loss of John Lackey. Jered Weaver takes over as the ace of the staff, and while he isn't a typical ace he has great stuff and knows how to win games. He relies more on finesse pitching than overpowering people. Ervin Santana dealt with injuries for the majority of last year and didn't quite look like himself when he did pitch. When he is pain free he is a deadly pitcher that can strikeout just about anyone. Joe Saunders is similar to Weaver in the fact that he doesn't overpower hitters. He gets outs though and doesn't make mistakes. He is very reliable and should be good for 15 wins. Scott Kazmir was brought in last year and while he has never gotten past the injury bug, he is lethal when healthy. His strikeout numbers have always been good, but now he seems to be settling in and finding other ways to get batters out. The strikeout totals may go down, but as long as he wins games it's a decent tradeoff. Joel Pineiro was brought in to take over the 5th spot and has to be considered one of the best fifth starters in baseball. He isn't a spectacular player but he usually keeps his team in the ballgame and doesn't make a ton of mistakes.
Brian Fuentes had tons of saves last year but that doesn't mean it was a mistake free season. Fuentes struggled mightily at times and was almost pulled as the closer numerous times. He will be the closer again but they brought in Fernando Rodney just in case. The rest of the bullpen is strong still with Scot Shields leading the way once again.
Kendry Morales had a huge breakthrough year and the Angels will need him to be their leader once again. His numbers were MVP like and while it took him a while to get to the big leagues he should keep his pace from last year. Howie Kendrick is a guy that everyone has been waiting for to breakout for years now. I wouldn't hold my breath, because if it hasn't happened yet, then it probably won't. He can still be a nice secondbaseman though. Erick Aybar and Macier Izturis will split time at shortstop again and both are similar players. Brandon Wood will be at third base and the Angels hope he can have the same type of season that Morales had last year. Like Morales, Wood may have taken awhile to get settled but he has the potential to be a big hitter. Mike Napoli is an excellent hitting catcher but his defense lacks in comparison to Jeff Mathis, this leads to the two sharing time, but it seems to work for the Angels. Torii Hunter had one of his best season last year and while he may not hit those numbers again he should still be solid like he has been his whole career. Juan Rivera managed to stay healthy last season, his stats were his best since 06, and the Angels will need him to produce at the level once again. Bobby Abreu just doesn't seem to slow down. He is one of the most underrated and unappreciated players of the past decade and there is no reason to think that his play will drop off this year even if he is a year older. Hideki Matsui seemed to back to his productive self as a DH, and the Angles brought him in banking on that fact. Angels lineup isn't as good as the Yankees though, so it will be interesting to see what "Godzilla" can do.
You can never count out Mike Scioscia and the Angels. They should still have a good season and will be in the playoff hunt until the end.
A.L. West: First place—Seattle Mariners
Best Everyday Player: Ichiro Suzuki
Best Pitcher: Felix Hernandez
Impact Rookie: Adam Moore
Mariners have been right on the brink of breaking out and this could finally be the year they do it. They've made moves that play to their strengths and have some impressive talent on their roster.
Felix Hernandez is getting better and better, which is a scary thought seeing as he is already one of the better pitchers in baseball. I expect him to match his numbers from last year which would once again put him in the Cy Young conversation. Cliff Lee is a huge addition to this staff. The former Cy Young winner brings veteran leadership and arguably give the Mariners the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Ryan-Rowland Smith has all the tools to be a very good starting pitcher, he just has to learn how to harness those tools. He has mostly been a bullpen pitcher but could be very valuable to the Mariners rotation this year. Ian Snell never really put it together in Pittsburgh, and while he didn't fair much better in Seattle last year he still might be a good back of the rotation guy, especially in Safeco field. Doug Fister will probably be the 5th starter at the beginning of the season. The giant pitcher has potential but it may be to soon to expect a lot of success. Erik Bedard could be back by midseason and that would be a big boost to an already good rotation, he still produces, it's just a matter of staying healthy.
Mariners found their new closer in David Aardsma last year. He came out of nowhere so there are plenty of skeptics, but J.J. Putz had a similar story when he broke out for Seattle. The rest of the bullpen is good, they don't have any big names but should be able to do their job.
The Mariners will play to their strength this year and that is a pitching team in a pitching park. Speed and defense will be their focus this year, and they have plenty of it. Ichiro Suzuki is a remarkable talent that is unlike anyone else. You can count on a terrific average, with stolen bases, and gold glove fielding. Franklin Gutierrez is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game and his hitting is getting better and better, he could become very similar to Torii Hunter. Milton Bradley will be the left fielder. He definitley has some talent, but he brings too much drama and headaches, if he is a problem, Eric Byrnes or prospect Michael Saunders will take over. Casey Kotchman and Ryan Garko were brought in to handle the first base position. Kotchman should handle most of the duties as he brings fantastic defense to go along with a solid bat. Chone Figgins was an excellent addition for Seattle. It looks like he will start at second base and while injuries are always a concern, 40 stolen bases with a .300 average makes it worth it. Jack Wilson will never wow anyone with his bat but his defense is still as good as most and that will keep him in the lineup at shortstop. Jose Lopez will move over to third base. No matter what position he plays he should keep improving his numbers, he has every year thus far. Rob Johnson will start at catcher but probably not for long, he doesn't offer much and prospect Adam Moore brings the potential of 20+ home runs. Ken Griffey Jr. is the franchise's all time greatest player but he just isn't the same player he once was. He still has some nice power and can be a help to the lineup, as long as they don't bat him third like they did last year.
Mariners may not be a flashy team, but their mix of stellar pitching with the so called "small ball" approach could lead to a division title and possibly more.
N.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Brandon Webb
Webb may start the year off on the DL, but when he comes back I expect him to be his regular stellar self. I look for him to have a season similar to what Chris Carpenter had last year.
Runner Up: Jose Reyes
A.L. Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Hamilton
Hamilton not only had injuries last year but also his stats and play were down. Although he may not reach his number from 08, I expect him to have a very good season on be a top offensive weapon for the Rangers.
Runner Up: Francisco Liriano
N.L. Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox
I believe the Braves will reach the postseason this year and being that it's Cox's last year, a manager of the year seems to be a nice going away present. Cox is one of the best managers ever and his final season could be one of his best.
Runner-Up: Bruce Bochy
A.L. Manager of the Year: Don Wakamatsu
Turning a team around goes a long way in winning manager of the year. Wakamatsu fits the bill if the Mariners win the division. He has already demonstrated that he is a good manager and his leadership could be rewarded.
Runner-Up: Joe Girardi
N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward
Yes, I am buying into the hype. I believe he will have a similar season to what Ryan Braun had in his rookie year. Heyward is a name you better learn, because he is going to be a star.
Runner-Up: Madison Bumgarner
A.L. Rookie of the Year: Wade Davis
Davis has already had some impressive games as a pro. This year he should continue to improve and could put up some very nice numbers. It's a hard division to pitch in but Davis has the talent to handle it.
Runner-Up: Scott Sizemore
A.L. Rookie of the Year: Wade Davis
Davis has already had some impressive games as a pro. This year he should continue to improve and could put up some very nice numbers. It's a hard division to pitch in but Davis has the talent to handle it.
Runner-Up: Scott Sizemore
N.L. Cy Young: Roy Halladay
Halladay has always been one of the best pitchers in the league, but this is by far the best team he has ever been a part of and it could result in some gaudy numbers. 20+ wins with over 200 strikeouts and a sub three ERA should do the trick.
Runner-Up: Tim Lincecum
A.L. Cy Young: Justin Verlander
Verlander has the stuff to lead his team to a division title and to the Cy Young Award. He had outstanding numbers last season and that was with a bad first month. This year I look for him to be great right out of the gates.
Runner-Up: Felix Hernandez
N.L. MVP: Albert Pujols
This guy is just too good not to pick. He is at the top of his game and playing for one of the best teams in baseball. Unless he gets injured, Pujols should take home another trophy.
Runner-Up: Chase Utley
A.L. MVP: Mark Teixeira
Tex should benefit from having A-Rod for a whole season, and also from being more familiar with New York. His numbers this year could be the best of his career, and that's saying something.
Runner-Up: Alex Rodriguez
N.L. Division Series: Philadelphia over San Francisco
Although I believe San Francisco's pitching will prolong the series to a 5 game battle, in the end Philadelphia's superior offense will put them over the top and lead them to their third straight NLCS.
A.L. Division Series: New York over Detroit
Tigers are just too over-matched in this series. They have some good talent and could pull of a game, especially with Verlander on the mound but youngsters Porcello and Scherzer aren't quite ready to take on this team in the playoffs.
N.L. Division Series: Atlanta over St. Louis
Braves will be hot coming into this series, and we've seen how much that can help a team in the playoffs. Cards have the bigger stars, but Braves have more balance and that will lead them past St. Louis in five games.
A.L. Division Series: Seattle over Boston
Seattle's big two in Hernandez and Lee will prove too much for Boston as Seattle wins the series in four. Homefield for Seattle might play a big part in this series as Boston may actually have the better all around team.
NLCS: Atlanta over Philadelphia
This will be a hard-fought series, and could be the best of the playoffs, as these teams know each other well. Phillies definitley have the edge in offense, but I believe the depth of the Braves pitching will win out in the end and give Atlanta a World Series berth.
NLCS MVP: Chipper Jones
ALCS: New York over Seattle
This is another series where I believe home field will be a big advantage. New York has all the offense in the world to take advantage of their home park but Seattle's lack of power could hurt them when they play in Yankees stadium. Seattle's pitching will make sure this series isn't a blowout but New York will prevail and go to their second straight World Series.
ALCS MVP: Derek Jeter
World Series: Atlanta over New York
I believe the Braves will be the hottest team in baseball at this point and while New York is probably the better team I think Atlanta will pull off the upset. Their hot streak along with the motivation of giving Bobby Cox a title in his last year will be enough to knock off New York in a full seven-game series.
World Series MVP: Jason Heyward