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MLB Preview 2011: A Team-By-Team Prospectus Heading into the Regular Season

Alec DoppCorrespondent IJune 26, 2016

MLB Preview 2011: A Team-By-Team Prospectus Heading into the Regular Season

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    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Ah, the time has come.

    Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we now stand just weeks away from what looks to be another memorable opening day for Major League Baseball.

    After a confounding postseason in which we crowned the San Fransisco Giants world champions once more, many teams find themselves in a promising situation heading into the regular season.

    However, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  This is just spring training, as we all know.

    So as preparation for the regular season begins to heat up, let's take a look at each team's status.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 65-97

    Offseason Acquisitions: Xavier Nady, J.J. Putz, Henry Blanco, Zach Duke

    Offseason Losses: Rusty Ryal, Mark Reynolds

     Biggest question heading into 2011

    For Diamondback nation, the promotion of newly named manager Kirk Gibson could potentially bring light to a young, underachieving ballclub that found itself dead last in the NL West.

    While still attaining superstar-in-the-making Justin Upton, Arizona has failed this offseason at building around their two prominent All-Stars. 

    And while second baseman Kelly Johnson managed to befuddle us all with his breakout season in 2010, you have to question whether or not he can duplicate those numbers again.

    Key to success in 2011

    The Diamondbacks found themselves in the cellar last season as far as pitching goes—with a team ERA of 4.58.  If Ian Kennedy and young talent Daniel Hudson can give Arizona consistent, well-balanced innings, the Diamondbacks could be in for a surprise season.

    Projected record: 70-92

Atlanta Braves

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 91-71, NL Wild Card berth

    Offseason Acquisitions: Scott Linebrink, Joe Mather, Dan Uggla

    Offseason Losses: Kyle Cofield, Omar Infante, Melky Cabrera

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    For the Braves, the loss of longtime manager Bobby Cox is stunningly relevant.  Can Atlanta's roster and fans rebound from the key loss?  Should be something to watch this season.

    Key to success in 2011

    Tommy Hanson has showed us all a thing or two about how important a team ace is for the development of a young ballclub.  Maintaining a fairly average 2010 in which he furnished a 10-11 record, with a 3.33 ERA with over 170 K's.

    Atlanta's young rotation (excluding Tim Hudson), in addition to its aging bullpen headed by Billy Wagner, will be key for the Braves in returning to the postseason.

    Projected record: 80-82

Baltimore Orioles

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 66-96

    Offseason Acquisitions: Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Gurerro

    Offseason Losses: Brett Jacobson

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Momentum is only beginning to build inside Baltimore's clubhouse, and with Buck Showalter's aggressive style and attention to detail, it's not out of the question to be thinking playoffs in the near future.

    Likewise, with the Orioles' effective addition of Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee, and J.J. Hardy, Baltimore's gruesome offensive will certainly make colossal strides in 2011.

    Key to success in 2011

    Although the Orioles only managed to put up 613 runs last season, pitching was also an issue with a disastrous 4.59 team ERA. If Jeremy Guthrie and rising star Brian Matusz can improve in the slightest way, the Orioles will be a good shape.

    Projected record: 77-85

Boston Red Sox

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 89-73

    Offseason Acquisitions: Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler

    Offseason Losses: Adrian Beltre, Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Failing to reach the postseason in 2010, Boston had one clear objective this offseason in signing big-name talent to help get them to where they belong. 

    And they've managed to do just that in signing Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzales to aid in their revamped lineup.

    Carl Crawford will need to be given time to adjust to now playing his home games outdoors in Boston, instead of indoors at Tampa Bay. 

    How will Adrian Gonzales play?  These are just a few of many questions surrounding this newly-formed ballclub.

    Key to success in 2011

    For the Red Sox, returning to the World Series is clearly in mind.  And with a great pitching staff, and added hitting this offseason, they'll probably do it.  But the key to success for the Red Sox will become whether or not they can stay healthy.

    Projected record: 94-68

Chicago White Sox

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 88-74

    Offseason Acquisitions: Adam Dunn, Waldis Joaquin,

    Offseason Losses: J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen wants winners, and nothing short of that.  But for success to be maintained, players must perform.

    Chicago's 1B and DH Paul Konerko sadly led the team in BA (.312), HR (39), RBI (111), and OBP (.393) last season—and let's remember: The guy will be 35 when the 2011 season starts.  Alex Rios and Adam Dunn must step up to make the offense click.  Otherwise, Chicago will be in a world of hurt.

    Key to success in 2011

    The acquisition of free agent Adam Dunn will prove to be vital for the White Sox in 2011.  If both he and Paul Konerko can keep the pace up from last season, Chicago will undoubtedly win the AL Central.

    Projected record: 80-82

Chicago Cubs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 75-87

    Offseason Acquisitions: Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Kerry Wood

    Offseason Losses: N/A

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    A forgettable 2010 season may turn into prosperity for Cubs fans in 2011, having signed both Matt Garza and Carlos Pena to franchise-shifting contracts this offseason.

    With the development of phenom Starlin Castro hitting only beginning to gear up, the Cubs should have more than enough runners on base to win critical ballgames.

    Key to success in 2011

    Pitching, pitching, pitching.

    The Cubs were at the bottom portion of all major league ballclubs with a decent 4.18 ERA last season with inadequate pitching talent.  And with Matt Garza, Chicago will have a great advantage when facing NL Central foes.

    Projected record: 79-83

Cincinnati Reds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 91-71

    Offseason Acquisitions: Dontrelle Willis, Ramon Hernandez

    Offseason Losses: N/A

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    For the reigning NL Central champions, offseason pick-ups and additions were put on the back-burner.  However, Dusty Baker's crew still attains the NL MVP in Joey Votto, along with emerging superstar Aroldis Chapman.

    Will Chapman be promoted to a starting role?  Will Votto duplicate his 2010 season?  These are the most notable questions facing the Reds heading into 2011.

    Key to success in 2011

    If Cincinnati can steadily improve its already impressive pitching staff, most of the National League will be in for a letdown—potentially.

    Projected record: 85-77

Cleveland Indians

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 69-93

    Offseason Acquisitions: Adam Everette, Austin Kearns

    Offseason Losses: N/A

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Unfortunately for Indians fans, 2011 may indeed turn out to be just another year without accomplishing much.  However, there is certainly a brighter side to things for the tribe.

    Rising prospects Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana are both showing colossal strides after their first full season together in the Major Leagues. 

    So, the biggest question for Cleveland continues to become the development of their young talent.  Building for the future will be the Indians' No. 1 priority in 2011.

    Key to success in 2011

    I may not be the first to say Cleveland has no shot at success in 2011; however, I do believe there are some positives that can be accomplished this season.  As stated before, the Indians must get Grady Sizemore back up and running to be effective in 2012—along with their plethora of young talent.

    Projected record: 65-97

Colorado Rockies

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 83-79

    Offseason Acquisitions: Jose Lopez

    Offseason Losses: Clint Barmes, Chaz Roe

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Colorado's pitching staff was legitimized by the outstanding play of Ubaldo Jimenez, who led the team in wins (19), strikeouts (214), ERA (2.88), and innings pitched (221.2) last season.  Can he manage another Cy Young-caliber 2011?  That will be the question everyone will be looking at this season.

    Key to success in 2011

    Should Carlos Gonzales and Troy Tulowitzki combine for another stellar season like that of 2010, Colorado will be a serious threat for playoff contention.  If not, the Rockies may have to settle for mediocrity.

    Projected record: 84-78

Detroit Tigers

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 81-81

    Offseason Acquisitions: N/A

    Offseason Losses: Alfredo Figaro, Brent Dlugach

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Arguably the most underachieving ballclub of 2010, the Detriot Tigers should be primed and ready to contend once more under Jim Leyland.

    Miguel Cabrera (left), will be once again responsable for batting in a majority of Detroit's runs this season, as well as their up-and-coming phenom Austin Jackson.

    Key to success in 2011

    Although the Tigers can rack up the long-ball better than any other team, their ineffective pitching has done them in.  With a team ERA of 4.30 (third-worst in the AL) Detroit needs to clean up its act on the mound— initiating with their starting rotation.

    Projected record: 80-82

Florida Marlins

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 80-82

    Offseason Acquisitions: Javier Vasquez, John Buck

    Offseason Losses: Dan Uggla

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    The rebuilding process for the Marlins has officially hit inaugural ending—or so it seems.  The fish have failed in reaching the playoffs since their World Series victory in 2003.  So, work still needs to be done.

    Still, Florida has a plethora of young talent on its roster, most notably in Hanley Ramirez, Gabby Sanchez, Mike Stanton and Chris Coghlan—all of whom have immense, young talent within them respectively.

    Key to success in 2011

    The Marlins were average in the pitching department last season with a team ERA of 4.08, as well as their hitting & run-scoring abilities in scoring 719 runs last year.  But as we've come to notice, that simply isn't enough to put this team over the top.  So for Florida to make a real splash this season, their young guns must step up and play their game.

    Projected record: 75-87

Houston Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 76-86

    Offseason Acquisitions: Bill Hall, Humberto Quintero

    Offseason Losses: Matt Lindstrom

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Houston's year-to-year tradition of a slow start and strong finish continues for the Astros, who have failed to reach the playoffs since their 2004 appearance in the World Series. 

    With humble offseason signings, and no apparent exports, Houston may be limited to a very similar ballclub from 2011. 

    Whether or not Houston's playmakers can gear up for another season will be a very interesting thing to watch for.

    Key to success in 2011

    Straying aside from their early-season blunders will be key for the Astros in attempting to make the playoffs this season.  Along with a talented young pitching staff capable of handling NL Central foes, Houston's offense must get hot early.

    Projected record: 71-91

Kansas City Royals

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 67-95

    Offseason Acquisitions: Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, Jeff Francoeur

    Offseason Losses: Zach Greinke, Yuniesky Betancourt

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    In trading away Zach Greinke and Yuniesky Bentacourt to Milwaukee, the Royals are (yet again) in transition mode heading into 2011.  A talented batch of prospects received from the Brewers, Kansas City will have enough young talent to possibly content in a few years. 

    But for now, how will Kansas City's starters respond to the loss of Greinke? 

    Key to success in 2011

    Getting situated and comfortable with their new additions will most likely be the theme for the Royals in 2011.  Both Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain will bring unquestioned talent to a ballclub who only scored 676 runs last year.  If their offensive production can improve, Kansas City will be in great shape.

    Projected record: 68-94

Los Angeles Angels

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 80-82

    Offseason Acquisitions: Hisanori Takahashi

    Offseason Losses: N/A

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    It's clear to the entire baseball community that 2011 was one of the most disappointing seasons for Mike Scioscia's ballclub.  Surpassed by the Rangers for the AL West crown, Los Angeles will be participating in a series of bouts with Texas for years to come.

    Heading into his 14th Major League season, Torii Hunter has seen it all.  So the question must be how many more effective years of service does he have left?

    Key to success in 2011

    It's easy to see why Los Angeles failed to reach the postseason in 2010.  Finding themselves in the bottom half of nearly all pitching and batting statistics last season, the Angels need to improve significantly for a shot at a playoff berth to be relevant.

    Projected record: 84-78

     

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 80-82

    Offseason Acquisitions: Tony Gwynn Jr., Dioner Navarro, Eugenio Velez

    Offseason Losses: Brad Ausmus (retirement)

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    A sub-average mark in 2010 has had Dodger nation raving—and not in a positive way whatsoever.

    Both Matt Kemp, James Loney and Andre Eithier managed less-than-impressive statistics, which should be cause for concern heading into 2011.  Let's not forget: Kemp led the Dodgers in last season with just 89 RBI.

    Sound like a do-or-die season in 2011?  Possibly.  Los Angeles's biggest question in 2011 will be whether or not their power-bats can revamp and re-establish themselves as one of the most potent in the league.

    Key to success in 2011

    A few minor offseason acquisitions won't help the Dodgers offensively.  But a solid showing from their pitching staff in 2010 will likely be the biggest source of success this season.  If Los Angeles can get the bats back to where they belong, they'll be just fine.

    Projected record: 81-81

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 77-85

    Offseason Acquisitions: Zach Greinke, Shaum Marcum, Takashi Saito

    Offseason Losses: Trevor Hoffman (retirement)

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    As disappointing as 2010 was for the Milwaukee Brewers, 2011 looks to become only that more promising having signed free agents Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason.  And with Prince Fielder staying put (for now), the Brewers are one of the most complete teams on paper heading into 2011.

    But the question is how will Greinke and Marcum perform having switched over to the National League?

    Key to success in 2011

    Pitching was Milwaukee's Achilles' heel last season with a team ERA of 4.58, which was good enough to be third-worst in the National League. 

    With a overpowering offense featuring Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, complemented by a superb starting rotation, the Brewers will be perennial contenders with a legitimate shot to contend for a World Series.

    Projected record: 85-77

Minnesota Twins

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    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 94-68

    Offseason Acquisitions: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Paul Bargas

    Offseason Losses: Jose Morales

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    The long-awaited return of Minnesota's "ace" closer Joe Nathan will bring the Twins much-needed security to their late-inning pitching staff.  We cannot be quite sure, though, if Nathan will need time to heal and rest up heading into the season.  So, Minnesota's biggest question remains whether or not Nathan will be as dominating as he had once been.

    Key to success in 2011

    Last season was as successful as Ron Gardenhire could have possibly imagined.  However, a sour end to their magical season transpired when the Yankees came to town.  The key for the Twins will be to continue their momentum into the postseason (should they make it there).

    Projected record: 88-74

New York Mets

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    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 79-83

    Offseason Acquisitions: Chin-lung Hu

    Offseason Losses: Michael Antonini

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Yet another unfulfilled season for the Mets resulted in the hiring of manager Terry Collins.  The former Angels manager from 1997-1999, Collins coached Los Angeles to 220-237 mark in his three-year span.

    A playoff berth may still be out of reach for the Mets, especially with the addition of a new manager.  Whether or not David Wright and the rest of the roster will gel quickly with Collins is something to watch for in the early goings of the regular season.

    Key to success in 2011

    The Mets qualified for seventh in the majors in ERA (3.57) last season, which is very respectable.  However, the hitting was atrocious last season, resulting in New York's new status amongst the 10 worst-hitting ballclubs.  If the Mets can improve from last season at the plate, they'll have a shot at a Wild Card berth.

    Projected record: 77-85

New York Yankees

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 95-67

    Offseason Acquisitions: Russell Martin, Scott Allen

    Offseason Losses: N/A

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    The Bronx bombers took an early exit in the postseason at the hands of Texas' ace-in-the-hole Cliff Lee.  In response, Brian Cashman well, didn't do much.  Other than extending Mariano Rivera's contract, as well as that of Derek Jeter, the Yankees have epically failed to add new talent and potential to their lineup. 

    So for the first time in years, New York's darlings must try to re-establish their authority within the AL East with essentially the same group of playmakers.

    Key to success in 2011

    Boston's offseason additions will have them as AL East favorites heading into 2011—and that's just a fact of life.  But with Tampa Bay's colossal losses, New York won't have to worry as much about the Rays' potential. 

    However, we are talking about the Yankees; and there's a reason they maintain both C.C. Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.  And that reason is money.  New York must keep up with the Red Sox both on the mound and at the plate in 2011.

    Projected record: 85-77

Oakland Athletics

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 81-81

    Offseason Acquisitions: Rich Harden, Hideki Matsui, Edwin Encarnacion

    Offseason Losses: Rajai Davis

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    As surprising as it sounds to most of America, the Oakland Athletics are a team to keep an eye on this season.  Beginning with key offseason acquisitions, Oakland has apparently committed to challenging the likes of Texas and Los Angeles for the AL West title. 

    And with great offensive role players in Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kurt Suzuki, Daric Barton and Cliff Pennnington, the A's will have a great power-hitting lineup to begin the regular season.

    But will the addition of Hideki Matsui and Edwin Encarnacion take Oakland one step closer to the promise land?

    Key to success in 2011

    Both Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzales are young, potential aces in the making, and with the leadership of Dallas Braden, they both will take another step towards becoming reliable starters.  If Oakland's starting pitching can take care of business against AL West opponents, don't be surprised if the Athletics find their way into the postseason.

    Projected record: 85-77

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 97-65

    Offseason Acquisitions: Cliff Lee

    Offseason Losses: Jayson Werth

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Just when you thought Philadelphia was Michael Vick's town, the Phillies sign Cliff Lee to a five-year contract.  And it's true: The Phillies have become the National League's version of the New York Yankees of late, now upholding the best starting rotation (on paper) in the Majors. 

    With a starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton, the jury is out in predicting the NL East's 2011 champions.  How Lee mixes in with his co-workers should be a storyline to watch this season.

    Key to success in 2011

    Now that Philly is statistically staked from top to bottom, the importance of keeping a steady start to their regular season will be paramount.  If the Phillies can cease their early-season woes, we might be in for a historic regular season from the guys in Pennsylvania.

    Projected record: 100-62

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 57-105

    Offseason Acquisitions: Aaron Thompson, Matt Diaz, Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen

    Offseason Losses: Zach Duke

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Yet another disconcerting season for the Pittsburgh faithful resulted in a last-place finish in the NL Central.  Be that as it may, the Pirates somewhat returned to respectability in 2010, going a combined 31-48 against NL Central opponents.

    Still, things need to be straightened out for success to take place—and that may be a ways down the road for the Pirates.  For prosperity to become prevalent, the Pirates need their playmakers (i.e. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones) to take their game to the next level on a consistent basis.

    Key to success in 2011

    Although success may already be out of Pittsburgh's reach, advancements can certainly be made—starting with steady leadership from their young, talented prospects.  A flourishing 2011 will be in store for the Pirates if a the organization is willing to take a year in order to figure everything out.  If they can do that, 2012 can be as successful as anyone's.

    Projected record: 62-98

San Diego Padres

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 90-72

    Offseason Acquisitions: Rob Johnson, Jason Bartlett, Aaron Harang

    Offseason Losses: Tony Gwynn, Cameron Maybin

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    One of the most notable regular-season turnarounds in Major League history, the San Diego Padres surprised the entire league last season—despite being rejected from playoff contention.  Nevertheless, offseason acquisitions and additions will help propel the Padres towards the ever elusive postseason. 

    But as we take a closer look, how will their talented group of additions boost San Diego's well-deserved postseason chances?

    Key to success in 2011

    To the surprise of nearly the entire country, San Diego quietly won 90 games, just two wins behind their NL West counterparts in the San Fransisco Giants.  And with a young, contingent group of starting pitching, the Padres will be a factor come September—and you can count on it. 

    If their pitching can back up the bolstered batting, San Diego will be in excellent position to make a World Series run.

    Projected record: 94-68

San Francisco Giants

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 92-70

    Offseason Acquisitions: 

    Offseason Losses: Waldis Joaquin

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    As the defending World Series champions, the Giants will have a superb chance to try and repeat next November.  And with regressing NL West competition, San Fransisco will almost certainly be back into the playoffs.  If the Giants are to contend yet again in 2011, they'll have to do exactly what they accomplished last season.

    Key to success in 2011

    San Fransisco was the symbol of consistency last season, which ultimately led to their World Series victory.  From the start of their 2010 season, the Giants were at or near the top 10 of every offensive statistical category in the majors.  Not many teams can say that.

    So for the time being, San Fransisco's gameplan for 2011 should be to maintain their momentum and success from last season both on the mound, and at the plate.

    Projected record: 90-72

Seattle Mariners

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 61-101

    Offseason Acquisitions: Chaz Roe

    Offseason Losses: Jose Lopez

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    A season in which you go a stunning 17-40 against divisional opponents probably isn't what the Mariners were initially looking for.  And with newly named manager Eric Wedge taking over the reigns of an embarrassing hitting lineup that scored a league-low 513 runs, things could get ugly quick.

    Still, to give some light to the lowly Mariners: A new coach never hurt anybody.  What Wedge instills in his young group this season will be a storyline to watch for Seattle fans.

    Key to success in 2011

    On the positive side, the Mariners still maintain the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in Felix Hernandez.  However, his effectiveness will subside due to Seattle's lack of a respectable offense.  Should the Mariners score with authority, they could reach the .500 mark. 

    Nothing is impossible.

    Projected record: 66-96

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 86-76

    Offseason Acquisitions: Maikel Cleto, Lance Berkman

    Offseason Losses: Brendan Ryan, Felipe Lopez, Albert Pujols (?)

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    As the Cardinals continue to underachieve at level previously unseen to St. Louis fans, so do their contract talks with superstar first-baseman Albert Pujols.

    Pujols has been quoted by ESPN as wanting a 10-year, $300 million contract from St. Louis.  That's a chunk of change not even the Yankees are willing to pay.  So the biggest uncertainty in Cardinals history will be whether or not they will be able to secure their distinguished first baseman.  Because, chances are they won't make the postseason without him.

    Key to success in 2011

    St. Louis' superb pitching staff did it once again for the red birds in 2010, maintaining the league's fifth-best ERA (3.57), while tossing 16 shutouts to opposing lineups.  If Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia can continue their workhorse ways, St. Louis has a legitimate shot at a Wild Card berth.

    Projected record: 83-79

Tampa Bay Rays

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 96-66

    Offseason Acquisitions: Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez

    Offseason Losses: Adam Bartlett, Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Sooner or later, Carl Crawford had to go.  Unfortunately for the Rays, he departed for their long-time rivals up in Boston.  Nevertheless, Tampa Bay still conserves great young talent within their dugout.  But will the additions of both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez go as planned for the guys in the Sunshine State?

    Keys to success in 2011

    With so many gaps yet to be addressed within the Tampa Bay lineup, it's extremely hard to figure how the Rays can make a run at another postseason berth.  Dealing away the likes of Matt Garza and Carl Crawford are detrimental to a young prospering team on the rise, and this season should become a definite test in determining whether or not Joe Maddon is an elite manager.

    Projected record: 81-81

Texas Rangers

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 90-72

    Offseason Acquisitions: N/A

    Offseason Losses: Jeff Francoeur, Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Failing to negotiate with the centerpiece to their World Series run in Cliff Lee, the Texas Rangers have decided to take the path less traveled this season.  But for the defending AL champs, a shot at a playoff berth may be almost out of the question.

    Key losses complemented by virtually no additions will spell trouble for Nolan Ryan's Rangers.

    Keys to success in 2011

    Although keeping Josh Hamilton is always a positive, losing Vladimir Guerrero is not.  And with a lineup that struggled to find it's stride on the biggest of stages, a cause for concern is brewing in the deep south.  If Texas can get consistent, injury-free play from Hamilton and the like, they'll be back in the postseason.

    Projected record: 80-82

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Brad White/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 85-77

    Offseason Acquisitions: Rajai Davis, Brett Lawrie, Carlos Villanueva, Edwin Encarnacion 

    Offseason Losses: Shaun Marcum, Trystan Magnuson

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    A season captured by the league's most ridiculous of power-hitters, the Toronto Blue Jays quietly strolled to an 85-win season.  Whether or not Jose Bautista can duplicate his success from a year ago has yet to be determined. 

    However, Toronto fans should be primed for a great season in 2011.  If the Blue Jays can power their way for the length of another full season, they could challenge for the playoffs.

    Keys to success in 2011

    The loss of Shaun Marcum will prove to be more significant than most initially believe, and will be reflected in the Blue Jays' pitching struggles in 2011.  If Toronto can bolster its pitching to respectable, the Jays will be a force in 2012—and you can count on that.

    Projected record: 86-76

Washington Nationals

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    2010 Record: 69-93

    Offseason Acquisitions: Jayson Werth, Chien-Ming Wang

    Offseason Losses: Josh Willingham, Adam Dunn

    Biggest question heading into 2011

    Going out and locking up arguably the best hitting free-agent on the market in Jayson Werth for seven years will prove to be Washington's best offseason transaction in the franchise's history.  Let's remember: The Nationals were third to last in the scoring department last season, as well as maintaining one of the worst OPS in the National League last season.

    So, can Werth take the Nationals to new heights?

    Keys to success in 2011

    Losing the iconic face of their franchise in Stephen Strasburgh due to Tommy John surgery, Washington will be more than likely enduring more hardship from the mound.  And for a starting rotation that tossed just two complete games last season, things could be getting iffy.  If improvement can be initiated on the mound, the Nationals will be much better than most would assume.

    Projected record: 65-97

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