With one week of Spring Training left, it's time to get the crystal ball down from the attic, dust it off, and see what the future holds for baseball in 2010.
Last year this was a lot easier. Just pick the Yankees to win it all and be done with it.
While I was tempted to do the same thing for 2010, I just don't see it that way for this season. Not to say that the Yanks won't win the American League, but things will definitely be a little tougher for the game's richest team this season.
Hopefully after reading these next few pages you will know exactly where your team stands for 2010. If not, you'll at least know where I stand on your team.
1. Philadelphia Phillies: 95-67
2. Atlanta Braves: 92-70
3. Florida Marlins: 85-77
4. New York Mets: 75-87
5. Washington Nationals: 67-95
The only difference between the '09 and '10 Phillies is instead of having the best left-handed starter in the league they now have the best righty in all of baseball.
The lineup is virtually the same, although the addition of Placido Polanco actually makes the team better offensively.
The Phils could get a challenge from the Braves, but in the end the Phillies are just too offensively talented. The pitching staff is getting plenty of press because of Halladay, but Cole Hamels has had an incredible offseason and could end up making Philadelphia's top two the best in the game.
The Braves will challenge the Phillies, but will likely end up battling for the Wild Card instead.
The Mets have a ton of pressure on them this year, and I fully expect them to wilt under that pressure. Jerry Manuel is on his way out.
The Nationals have built a formidable pitching staff with Jason Marquis as its ace. I expect a marked improvement from the Nats this year. When you only win 59 games in a season, you have nowhere to go but up.
The Marlins will challenge Atlanta for the Wild Card and second in the NL East. Behind a top young rotation and an offense led by Hanley Ramirez, these Marlins will still be in it in late September.
1. St. Louis Cardinals: 88-74
2. Milwaukee Brewers: 84-78
3. Chicago Cubs: 78-84
4. Cincinnati Reds: 74-88
5. Houston Astros: 70-92
6. Pittsburgh Pirates: 58-104
The Cardinals are ready to get the awful taste from the '09 NLDS out of their mouth. With Matt Holliday protecting Albert Pujols in their lineup, consider it done.
Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation create the best one-two punch in the division.
The Cards will face a two-pronged challenge from the Brewers and Cubs. I expect both Milwaukee and Chicago to jockey for position all season long—which should enable the Cards to sneak away by mid-August.
The Brewers pitching staff, with Yovani Gallardo at the top, was bolstered by the signing of Randy Wolf in the offseason. The Brew Crew's lineup is a force to be reckoned with as well.
The Cubs are, well, the Cubs. A rapidly declining Alfonso Soriano will continue to hamper their offensive progress and the oft-injured duo of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will have to stay healthy to offset any lack of production from Soriano. Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly are nice at the top of the rotation, but are barely third best in the division.
The Reds, Astros, and Pirates will likely all fade by mid-June.
1. LA Dodgers: 94-68
2. Colorado Rockies: 90-72
3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: 80-82
5. San Diego Padres: 69-93
There are questions in the rotation, but the Dodgers were able to patch that unit together just enough last season to allow the offense to lead the way.
Things will be the same way this year in LA. Clayton Kershaw is a stud in the making. But the true studs for the Dodgers are in the lineup. Matt Kemp will emerge as an MVP candidate this season. Andre Ethier should make up for any production dip that Manny Ramirez will likely face.
The Rockies are a solid Wild Card contender. If Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de la Rosa combine for 30-plus wins again this season, the Rockies will be on the Dodgers' tail all season long.
The Giants are still a couple of bats away from being a serious NL contender. A great rotation spoiled by a lackluster lineup, yet again.
Arizona will challenge for third in the division for much of the year, but without knowing what to expect from Brandon Webb when he gets back it's hard to think the D-Backs can challenge for the division.
The Padres will be awful. You have to like their young nucleus, but San Diego will be Florida Marlins circa '98 for a while.
1. Atlanta Braves: 92-70
2. Colorado Rockies: 90-72
3. Florida Marlins: 85-77
4. San Francisco Giants: 85-77
5. Milwaukee Brewers: 84-78
The Braves are back. Boasting the best young starting rotation in the national league and an improved offense these Braves should improve upon their 86-win mark from '09.
Jason Heyward has been much-hyped and there's little reason to believe he won't deliver on that hype. Troy Glaus will have to stay healthy and the Braves always count on Chipper Jones being not only healthy, but productive.
Jones is probably Atlanta's biggest question mark coming off his worst season as a professional in '09.
Still, the Braves biggest reason to be excited is that starting rotation. Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, and Kenshin Kawakami are ready to keep the starting pitching legacy alive and well in Atlanta in 2010. The fivesome should easily improve upon their combined 49 wins from '09.
1. New York Yankees: 102-60
2. Boston Red Sox: 96-66
3. Tampa Bay Rays: 84-78
4. Baltimore Orioles: 70-92
5. Toronto Blue Jays: 68-94
Just as the Cubs are the Cubs, the Yankees are the Yankees.
I fully expect the Yankees to be the Yankees again in 2010. Replacing Johnny Damon with Nick Johnson is probably a push, but Johnson will likely spend some time on the DL as that has been his MO for years.
Adding Javy Vazquez to the Sabathia-led rotation was a nice move, but if he has trouble giving up gopher-balls in New Yankee Stadium his confidence, or potential lack thereof, could be a factor.
Boston will be ready to take over should the Yankees slip up at anytime. Adding John Lackey to their rotation was a solid move, but he's been known for injury issues in the past as well.
The Sox and Yanks are so good I would expect a battle all season long for the top spot in the East. I'll take the Yanks here, but winning the Wild Card by six games should be a nice consolation prize for the Red Sox.
The Rays want to be the Yankees when they grow up. While Tampa Bay will challenge early on and keep within striking distance for most of the season, the Rays will falter down the stretch just as they did in '09.
Matt Wieters is a stud for the O's, but their crazy ownership will keep them from contending until the end of time.
The Jays cashed out with the Halladay deal over the winter.
1. Chicago White Sox: 90-72
2. Minnesota Twins: 87-75
3. Detriot Tigers: 78-84
4. Cleveland Indians: 70-92
5. KC Royals: 65-97
A healthy Jake Peavy equals trouble for the rest of the division. Followed in that rotation by Buehrle, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd, Peavy is the anchor of an extremely talented starting corps.
The addition of Juan Pierre at the top of the order was a sneaky good move for Ozzie Guillen. We all know he loves to play the speed game on the bases, and Pierre offers that opportunity.
I expect Andruw Jones to emerge as one of the most productive guys on this team. He's looking to revive his career and he appears to have found his place in the Designated Hitter role.
I expect plenty of noise from the South Siders in 2010.
The loss of Joe Nathan will hurt the Twins greatly in their inaugural season at Target Field. The race between the Twins and ChiSox, however, will remain close for much of the season. Getting Mauer's contract extension out of the way in the spring was a great move. I expect the Sox to win the division, but you count Ron Gardenhire out at your own peril.
The Tigers might keep things close, but the trade of Curtis Granderson for barely major-league-ready prospects sealed their fate as an also-ran this year.
The Indians should improve some, but Manny Acta's presence as manager is a good thing. Expect big improvement in a year or two.
The only reason to mention the Royals is Zack Greinke. There, I mentioned him.
1. LA Angels: 95-67
2. Texas Rangers: 88-74
3. Seattle Mariners: 84-78
4. Oakland A's: 73-89
The chic pick in this division has been Seattle for much of the winter. And with Cliff Lee and King Felix atop the rotation there's little reason to wonder why.
But it's going to take more than that to topple Mike Scioscia and the Angels.
I personally think the Angels actually upgraded at DH with Matsui over Guerrero. The Angels also boast a much deeper rotation and a light years more potent offense.
The real challenge for the Angels will come from Arlington this season. The Rangers are young, but incredibly talented.
While Texas' starting rotation may be too young to count on up-ending the Angels, it will definitely make strides toward making the Rangers a relevant team in the West.
The Athletics are the poster organization for, "Who the heck is that on the field?" The Marlins would like to thank the A's for taking their former distinction.
1. Boston Red Sox: 96-66
2. Texas Rangers: 88-74
3. Minnesota Twins: 87-75
4. Tampa Bay Rays: 84-78
5. Seattle Mariners: 84-78
The Red Sox are far and away the best team not named the Yankees in the American League. With a staff that features Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, and a rejuvenated Daiske Matsuzaka, the Sox will be a factor in the AL East just as much as they will the Wild Card.
David Ortiz will start much better than he did last season, and the added pop of Mike Cameron in center can only help an offense that has been one of the AL's best for the past five years.
The sneaky-good addition of Adrian Beltre will further increase the BoSox scoring ability.
The Rangers are improved but they won't finish within five games of the Red Sox. Just won't happen.
NLDS: Phillies vs. Cardinals—Phils in 5
NLDS: Braves vs. Dodgers—Braves in 4
NLCS: Braves vs. Phillies—Braves in 7
ALDS: Yankees vs. White Sox—ChiSox in 5
ALDS: Red Sox vs. Angels—Red Sox in 5
ALCS: Red Sox vs. White Sox—Red Sox in 7
World Series: Braves vs. Red Sox—Red Sox in 7
NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, RF, Atlanta Braves
AL Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz, P, Texas Rangers
NL Cy Young: Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
AL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves
AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox