Spring is in the air. Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and baseball bats are cracking. That only means one thing...Opening Day is right around the corner.
But just because the season begins in just five days, doesn't mean we can't predict who will still be playing in six months, right?
So, without further adieu, here are my very, very early final standings predictions for the 2010 season, American League East edition.
As much as I don't like saying it, it is rather difficult to bet against the New York Yankees.
Any team that can throw out the likes of Sabathia, A-Rod, Teixeira, and Mo Rivera (just to name a few) has to be considered a favorite to win any division. Thus, in a not-so-bold move, I predict the Yankees will win the Eastern Division in the American League.
The rest of the division certainly has their hands full with the Bronx Bombers. But if there is one team in the division that could challenge the Yanks for the crown, it would be the guys from Beantown.
The Boston Red Sox didn't make a ton of moves this off-season, but they made the right moves. With the addition of John Lackey in their rotation, the Red Sox's top three starters are Josh Beckett, Lackey, and Jon Lester. Imagine having to face those hurlers in a three-game series.
And their offense is, for lack of a better word, stacked. From top (Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia) to bottom (Adrian Beltre/Mike Lowell and Marco Scutaro), there are no legitimate holes in their lineup (Mike Cameron, David Ortiz, and Victor Martinez in the middle).
The Red Sox are my choice for finishing second in the AL East, and for winning the American League Wild Card for the third consecutive season.
It's the same old story for the Tampa Bay Rays (discounting their Cinderella 2008 season). They have loads of talent, but are blocked by the two behemoth teams ahead of them.
And it's not going to get any easier for the Rays following the 2010 season. Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford, two intricate parts of the club, are eligible for free agency after the 2010 season, and the team is going to have to decide their futures.
But without getting too far ahead of ourselves, the Rays will definitely challenge for the top of the division, but I just don't think they have enough punch in their offense or their rotation to be considered a legitimate threat in 2010.
They lost one of the game's best pitchers (Roy Halladay), still don't have a closer, and play in the game's toughest division.
I would be referring to the Toronto Blue Jays.
But it's not all bad north of the border. The lineup is filled with young talent, namely Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Travis Snider—all of which have the ability to hit 25-30 home runs.
The problem the Jays are going to face, other than the division they play in, will be their pitching.
They lack a legitimate ace because of Halladay's departure. Shaun Marcum, who missed all of the 2009 season, will be the team's Opening Day starter. And their bullpen isn't anything to write home about either.
If there's one feel-bad team in the Major Leagues, it has to be the Baltimore Orioles. Not only do they play in the toughest division in baseball, but they haven't even been able to put up a fight since they won the AL East in 1997.
But there is an upside to finishing in the cellar for several seasons in a row; an upside that the Tampa Bay Rays can attest to. I would be referring to the amateur draft.
Four of the key players for the O's have come from high draft picks, thanks to their low placement in the standings. Star outfielder Nick Markakis was drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft. Up-and-coming catcher Matt Wieters was selected in the first round of the 2005 draft.
So perhaps all of Baltimore's losing seasons will culminate in an eventual playoff birth, similar to the Rays of '08. But this will likely not occur in 2010.