Welcome to the second edition of the MLB Featured Columnists' Poll!
After the success of last week's player award predictions, Chicago Cubs FC Matt Poloni suggested a survey of predictions about how the divisions will shake out.
For each team I have listed the cumulative rank, average rank, and number of first-place votes. Instead of listing just one "interesting pick" like last week, for each division I have asked people who ranked the same team very differently to defend their picks.
Thank you to the 20 FC's who participated, and I look forward to some great debate!
Note: So as not to clog people's inboxes, I sent this survey only to the Featured Columnists who participated in last week's poll. If you are a new FC or you have changed your mind about wanting to participate, send me a message and I'll be sure to keep you in the loop for next time.
1. New York Yankees (1.45, 14)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (2.25, 4)
3. Boston Red Sox (2.50, 2)
4. Toronto Blue Jays (4.35)
5. Baltimore Orioles (4.45)
It should come as no surprise that the AL East is the most top-heavy division in baseball. The Red Sox' slip to third place shows that fans are genuinely concerned about Boston's slow start.
Why the Yankees will finish first: "Boston is on the decline and while the Rays may be in the mix for the wild card, they can’t keep up with New York...The Rays and the Red Sox will both play some stretches of solid baseball, but the Yankees will play that way all season." (Samantha Bunten)
Why the Yankees will finish fifth: "The Yankees will buckle under the pressure of unrealistic expectations set by their ownership and fans. With a weak outfield, a limp-arm catcher, a shaky bullpen, and a host of overpaid, over-the-hill stars, look for a last-place finish in the Bronx." (Jeremiah Wood)
1. Minnesota Twins (1.35, 13)
2. Chicago White Sox (2.20, 5)
3. Detroit Tigers (2.55, 2)
4. Cleveland Indians (4.20)
5. Kansas City Royals (4.70)
Most fans would agree that this is the weakest division in baseball. Can you imagine how different things would be if the Rays moved a couple-hundred miles west?
Why the Tigers will finish first: "The Tigers should have won the AL Central in ‘09, and they’re going to ride Cabrera and Ordonez to the playoffs this fall. Had it not been for an ugly collapse in early September...we’d be talking about the Tigers as favorites to repeat as division winners." (Ash Marshall)
Why the Tigers will finish fourth: "I think they're either too young or too old in position players, whether they have Scott Sizemore at second or Carlos Guillen in whatever role they've got him this week...Their one reliable constant, Justin Verlander, hasn't set the tone for a staff that I didn't trust all that much to begin with." (Nino Colla)
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1.70, 9)
2. Seattle Mariners (2.35, 5)
3. Texas Rangers (2.60, 5)
4. Oakland Athletics (3.35, 1)
Only five teams in baseball got votes for every possible place in their divisions; four were from the AL West. This is the division to watch.
Why the Rangers will finish first: "Like the Indians of the late 90's, the Rangers have the offensive muscle to win without a marquee pitching staff. That being said, Texas' ragtag rotation of promising prospects and overlooked veterans could end up surprising the rest of the league. " (Lewie Pollis)
Why the Rangers will finish fourth: "They have impatient hitters with low OBP and I expect a decline from Scott Feldman and don’t know what to expect from the oft-injured Rich Harden. Meanwhile, once Lee gets going I think Seattle will improve, and I love Oakland as a dark horse with that pitching." (Bob Warja)
1. Philadelphia Phillies (1.00, 20)
2. Atlanta Braves (2.15)
3. Florida Marlins (3.05)
4. New York Mets (3.95)
5. Washington Nationals (4.85)
Having won the NL Pennant two years in a row, the Phillies have established themselves as the dominant force in the division.
Why the Mets will finish second: "The Braves staring pitching is very suspect (ace: Derek Lowe?) while the Marlins and Nationals lack adequate talent and/or experience at several positions. That leaves the Metropolitans and their $134 million payroll." (Jordan Bratt)
Why the Mets will finish fifth: “The Mets simply don’t have the pitching to hang in the NL East this year, even with Mike Pelfrey overachieving in the early-goings. The once-vaunted AL-style offense seems to have gone flat and they just have too many needs that the front office can’t be trusted to address.” (Jeremiah Graves)
1. St. Louis Cardinals (1.00, 20)
2. Milwaukee Brewers (2.80)
3. Chicago Cubs (3.00)
4. Cincinnati Reds (3.30)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (5.40)
6. Houston Astros (5.50)
It's interesting how neatly the NL Central is divided into tiers. The second-through-fourth spots should be a catfight and the Pirates and Astros will battle for respectability, but the Cardinals are unanimous favorites to win the division.
Why the Reds will finish second: "They have a 25-man roster that is a decent mix of great young talent and crafty, professional veterans...Their pitching is also better than advertised early on and can only improve with the midseason additions of Aroldis Chapman and Edinson Volquez." (Joshua Worn)
Why the Reds will finish fifth: "I really don’t need a couple sentences to say why I picked the Reds fifth. I simply need a name: Dusty Baker. He’s used and abused any pitching arm he’s come across in his career and the Reds are no different." (Chris Murphy)
1. Colorado Rockies (1.50, 13)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (2.30, 6)
3. San Francisco Giants (2.50, 1)
4. Arizona Diamondbacks (3.95)
5. San Diego Padres (4.75)
Much like its counterpart in the Junior Circuit, the NL West is wide open. Convincing arguments can be made for at least four different teams to win the division.
Why the Dodgers will finish first: "They have a dangerous lineup offensively, a solid bullpen, three strong starters, decent defense outside of left field, and a nice bench. So long as Manny puts forth some effort and Vicente Padilla doesn’t drag down the rotation too much, I don’t see anyone in the division passing them." (Matt Poloni)
Why the Dodgers will finish fourth: "Blame it on the off-the-field divorce proceedings. The Dodgers needed a couple of upgrades to fill some holes in the offense and pitching staff...One or two injuries will really send the Dodgers into a tailspin." (Todd Hayek)