With the first game of the MLB season tonight and the full slate kicking off tomorrow, it's time for everyone to make their picks for the season.
NL East: Phillies
The Phillies are the consensus choice to win the National League East for the fourth year in a row. Roy Halladay could win 25 games with that offense backing him up. Their lineup is still one of the best in baseball, and their rotation is good enough to get them back on top of the division.
Atlanta could compete for awhile, but with a young pitching staff and an offense with some question marks, I can't see them hanging with the Phillies all year.
The Mets and Marlins aren't bad teams, but also aren't on the level of Philadelphia yet. Both teams have some talent and are moving in the right direction, but both also have too many question marks in their rotations to be considered serious contenders.
NL Central: Cardinals
With arguably the best 1-2 pitching punch in baseball, St. Louis deserves to be the favorite in the central. And besides Carpenter and Wainwright in the starting rotation, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday aren't a bad middle of the order either.
The rest of the division just simply doesn't have the talent to compete with St. Louis and better set their sights on the Wild Card.
NL West: Giants
This could be the year the Giants finally put it all together and take the division crown. Everyone knows how good their rotation is, and with the additions of Mark DeRosa and Aubry Huff, along with a full season from Freddy Sanchez, they could have just enough offense to get by the Dodgers.
NL Wild Card: Dodgers
Although I think the Dodgers will come up a little short in their division race, I have them winning the Wild Card. They still have a good offense with Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. The Wild Card race should be a good one between the Dodgers and Braves, but the Braves are relying on too many old and/or injury-prone players.
AL East: Yankees
They won the World Series last year, and the addition of Curtis Granderson only makes them better. The trade made them younger, faster, and better defensively. Granderson, along with Javier Vazquez, should bring the Yankees back to the playoffs as AL East champions.
AL Central: Twins
The central could be the most closely contested division in baseball as the Twins, Tigers, and White Sox all have a legitimate chance of winning the division. But the Twins' offense should carry them to the division crown. The additions of JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Jim Thome should make up for their lack of a true ace in the rotation.
AL West: Mariners
The Mariners are trying to prove that pitching and defense can still win in Major League Baseball. They may have the best infield defense since the 1999 Mets, and Franklin Gutierrez is one of the better defensive centerfielders in the game.
The Rangers are improved with Vlad Guerrero and Rich Harden, but gambling on both to stay healthy for the whole season seems like too much to ask.
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
If the Yankees are the best team in the AL East, the Red Sox are certainly the deepest. With three potential No. 1 starters and a bench with Jason Varitek, Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida, and Bill Hall, the Sox are covered in case of an injury. Not to mention that they will have a major league-quality starter out of their rotation in either Tim Wakefield or Clay Buchholz once Dice-K returns.
This leaves the Rays once again on the outside looking in. The Rays will contend and are likely a better team than either Seattle or anyone in the central. Playing in the AL East will leave a playoff-caliber team out of the playoffs, and this year, it looks to me to be Tampa Bay.
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay: He was the best pitcher in baseball playing in the toughest division and only stands to get better. The small park shouldn't be much of a factor due to his heavy sinker. (24-3, 2.45 ERA)
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez: Probably deserving of the Cy Young last year, King Felix will have the best defense in baseball backing him this year and should get the award this time around. (21-6, 2.75 ERA)
NL MVP: Matt Kemp: A bit of a sleeper pick, Kemp is a five-category contributor and a great defensive outfielder. (.320, 22 HR, 75 RBI, 35 SB)
AL MVP: Mark Teixeira: He should be the best player on the best team, and playing half of his games at Yankee Stadium doesn't hurt his stats. (.290, 43 HR, 130 RBI)
World Series: Red Sox over Cardinals
The Red Sox are built for the long season. Every team deals with injuries, and the Red Sox are prepared to handle their's. When they face the Yankees in the ALCS (it really is more of a when than an if), their pitching could give the Yankees fits due to their depth.
The NLCS should also be a great series with St. Louis in Philadelphia. But after a shaky season from Cole Hamels in 2009, the Cardinals have a slight advantage in a seven-game series.